Gulf of Mexico
Tigertail Beach lagoon on Marco Island (J. Kyle Foster)

FL - Marco Island to start emergency excavation at Tigertail lagoon on Monday

Tigertail lagoon and Sand Dollar Island had extensive damage and were changed during hurricanes Irma in 2017 and Ian in 2022

Tigertail Beach lagoon on Marco Island will remain open during an approximately two-week emergency excavation that starts Monday to remove sand dumped into it during Hurricane Idalia. The work area will be closed.

The lagoon ‒ popular for fishing, swimming, bird watching, kayaking and paddle boarding ‒ was over-washed and had sand pushed into it during Idalia Aug. 29.

"Sand Dollar Island remained largely intact and held its position protecting the lagoon and upland," Marco Island Assistant City Manager Casey Lucius said in a press release. A portion on the southern part of Sand Dollar Island saw storm surge and waves, pushing sand into the lagoon, she said.

The work area - on Sand Dollar Island between Department of Environmental Protection monuments R130 to R132 - will be closed to the public during the work, according to a press release from Collier County today.

The R monuments are used to measure beach topography for determining erosional or accretional trends and to coordinate mapping of beach restoration project boundaries or the project’s engineered performance. Installed in the 1970s, the monuments are located at approximately 1,000-foot intervals along Florida’s coastline, with a few exceptions, according to Florida DEP.

How much will it cost?

Marco Island hired Athna Marine to remove the sand for approximately $48,000. Hurricane Idalia made landfall at 7:45 a.m. on Aug. 30 along Florida's Big Bend as a Category 3 storm. The outer bands caused some flooding and storm surge in Marco Island, Goodland, Everglades City and Naples, which otherwise were mostly unscathed.

A $4 million project to shore up the lagoon was completed in May following damage by hurricanes Irma in 2017 and Ian in 2022. That project ‒ the Tigertail Lagoon/Sand Dollar Island Ecosystem Restoration Project ‒ began in 2022 to restore the lagoon and the barrier island to pre-Hurricane Irma condition. The goal was to create a larger beach habitat for sea turtles and other wildlife to nest, restore mangroves will be restored, and improve water quality in the lagoon for recreational activities.


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Sand Dollar Island’s northern tip grew 15 acres in five years after Hurricane Irma. It began encroaching on the Marco River navigation channel and threatened to close off the lagoon entrance, Lucius said. "Hurricane Ian did further damage to the middle part of the island causing it to collapse on the mangrove shoreline and severing the lagoon into two sections."

The Idalia project will stabilize the berm, Lucius said, making it "safer for visitors and environmental monitors who walk the area at high tide." A berm is a strip of land that borders the lagoon.

How will wildlife be protected?

Because Tigertail Lagoon and Sand Dollar Island form the Big Marco Pass Critical Wildlife Area, the project required approval and permitting by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP), Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Lucius said. "This emergency repair work needs to be completed quickly to recover the sand before more sand is lost with the incoming and outgoing tides," she wrote. Marco Island officials consulted with FWC to "ensure environmental monitoring and protection of seagrasses, turtles, birds, and mangroves."

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