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Captiva Beach Renourishment

picture of captiva beach

The first Captiva Island beach renourishment project took place in 1961. It consisted of placing 107,000 cubic yards of sand in conjunction with the construction of 134 groins. Unfortunately, most of the groins constructed then have either since been removed, buried or destroyed.

Responsibility For The Captiva Beach Renourishment

The Captiva Erosion Prevention District (CEPD) was established nearly 60 years ago in 1959, under the provision of Chapter 161, Florida Statutes. The organization is governed by an independently elected board of directors, who carry out the mission to providing, beach and shore preservation.

What is Beach Renourishment?

“Beach nourishment, or beach filling, is the practice of adding large quantities of sand or sediment to beaches.” The reason is that the nourishment combats erosion and increase beach width. It is often called “soft armoring” technique. The reason is that it is sometimes viewed as a superior alternative to hard armoring. Furthermore, it avoids some of the major pitfalls associated with hard structures like seawalls.

Why Do We Need Beach Renourishment On Captiva?

Like any coastal area, Sanibel & Captiva Islands are affected by the erosive forces of 

  • waves, 
  • storms, and 
  • rising sea levels

Where Does Captiva Get Sand For Its Beach Renourishment?

Where does the sand for the beach renourishment come from? To answer this question the CEPD hired an engineering company that created the so-called Red Fish pass report.  They collected data and created a report that identifies so-called  potential “borrow areas.” Part of the idea was to find materials that match with the existing beach quality on Captiva island. As a result, the sand that is best compatible with the current beach material is the one that is in the Redfish Pass ebb shoal.

How Does Beach Renourishment Work on Captiva?

During beach nourishment projects, a floating plant called a “hopper dredge” sucks sand from the sea floor) of a designated area (usually Redfish Pass) and loads it into a hold. Secondly , the ship comes closer to shore where it is pumped through large pipes onto the shoreline. Afterwards, bulldozers spread the newly pumped sand along the beach.

Which Disadvantages Can Beach Renourishment Have?

  • The sudden input of massive amounts of sand changes the environment on the beach. As a result, the environment changes for all the animals living on the beach.
  • The time needed for a beach ecosystem to recover from a single beach filing episode is not known.
  • Beach animals that carry their young in pouches (rather than producing free-floating young), such as amphipods and isopods, depend entirely on resident populations for recovery. As a consequence of the new sand, these animals may require human help to return to a beach impacted by nourishment. This is why SCCF gets included in the renourishment program on Captiva Island.
  • As the ocean starts eroding the introduced sand, the water offshore may become muddy. As a consequence it can potentially smooth marine life and change coastal water quality. 

Environmental Friendly Beach Renourishment on Captiva

  • Captiva uses sand with a similar composition to the natural sand.
  • Sand gets placed up coast and in the nearshore zone to allow waves to move it onto and along the beach.
  • Plough the sand immediately after nourishment to prevent it from becoming so compact that it is inhospitable to beach critters.
  • Captiva executes the nourishment at a time of year when birds and other mobile organisms are less prevalent.
  • CEPD allows enough time between nourishment projects. Therefore, even the slowest reproducing beach organism can recolonize and reproduce.

How Long Does Beach Renourishment last on Captiva?

Unfortunately, nature’s forces do not disappear after nourishment takes place. Thus, waves will continue to “chew on” the sand. As a result, it erodes away, moving down the coast and offshore. Therefore, nourishment can protect coastal structures for as long as the sand lasts, but after a certain period of time, the beach will have to be renourished.” On Captiva Island beach renourishment projects were done in 1961, 1981, 1988, 1996, 2005 and 2013.  

How To Prevent Beach Erosion

Because beach erosion has negative side effects, CEPD tries to prevent beach erosion as much as possible. One of the main activities is to protect the dunes on the island. There is no doubt that prevention is the best solution to preserve Captiva Island.

Read next: Ultimate Guide to the Beaches of Sanibel and Captiva and Iguanas on Sanibel and Captiva.

Antje Diana Baumgarten

Antje Diana Baumgarten

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