The planting of native vegetation along the new dunes of Captiva Island marked the end of the 2013-2014 beach renourishment project.
According to the Captiva Erosion Prevention District (CEPD), crews installed 319,000 native plants - Sea Oats, Panic Grass, Sea Oxeye Daisy, Beach Elder, and the Dune Sunflower - along new and existing dunes. The project officially concluded on Feb. 20.
The amount of plants used this year more than doubled the 115,500 planted during the 2006 project. Not only did each 10-person crew average 18,700 plants per day, but they hand-completed the job one plant at a time.
A newly planted dune with post and rope fencing. PHOTO PROVIDED.
Vegetation not only protects the sand from tidal erosion but blocks grains from blowing away in the wind, explained Kathy Rooker, an administrator with CEPD.
"It holds and collects the sand," she said. "The vegetation you see also makes great habitats for wildlife critters."
The freshly planted vegetation is only a few inches tall at the moment but will be maintained by Aquatic Plants of Florida for the next 90 days, and any unhealthy plants removed. Aquatic Plants provides wholesale inventory of native plants for environmental projects and after one year will guarantee the health of 80 percent of the stock.
New plants are expected to grow quickly across the dunes.
"By the summer you will see quite the difference," said Rooker.
Officials are hoping the beach renourishment will last between 8-10 years but a lot of that depends on Mother Nature, including hurricanes and winter cold fronts bringing heavy waves that erode beaches at a faster rate.
They are now asking visitors to be cautious around the new dunes. Rope fences and signs have been installed near beach entrances to inform the public, but environmental officials have already observed some visitors stepping on the dunes.
"We don't want people taking shortcuts over dunes and vegetation," said Rooker. "We have already seen that happen even though we have signs up."
Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Company, LLC, oversaw the $19.5 million project to replenish 800,000 cubic yards of sand along six miles of shoreline. Rooker said the CEPD was proud to announce that project costs didn't run over.
CEPD officials even reported saving money when purchasing the vegetation, paying $126,308 rather than the $160,000 originally budgeted. Plant prices also dropped from 55 cents during the 2006 project to 35 cents last year.
The next meeting of the CEPD will be March 12 at 1 p.m. inside the Wakefield Room at 'Tween Waters Inn. For more information, visit mycepd.com.