Capri culvert installation now imminent after water line mishap
By SEAN ERNST, Staff Writer
After county workers shut down water service to part of Isles of Capri so they could fix a water line break Sept. 5, work resumed last week on a nearly $500,000 culvert project on Capri Boulevard, or County Road 952, near the Capri fire station.
After four culvert segments — open concrete boxes totaling more than 50 tons — were delivered to the construction site, workers spent a few days digging a hole about 11 feet below the road. They are scheduled to start installing the segments this week.
Those segments will constitute the north portion of the culvert. Segments for the south portion should arrive within a week and a half, said Mark MacDonald, president of Ocean Gate General Contractors, the Stuart-based company hired by Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve to install the culvert.
Rookery Bay officials intend for the completed culvert, an 8-by-8 foot square pipe, to restore water flow between Tarpon and Johnson bays on either side of Capri. Developers filled in the gaps between Capri's islands in the late 1950s and early 1960s, cutting off direct routes between the bays and causing water quality to deteriorate.
Judy Haner, Rookery Bay research management coordinator, said a "manatee, plus" will be able to fit through the culvert. She announced at the Capri Civic Association meeting Sept. 9 that the first culvert portion had arrived earlier in the day. "It's here. It's big," Haner said, drawing laughter. "There are just little construction glitches now (while) trying to get (the segments) in."
A not-so-little glitch already had occurred Sept. 5, when a temporary water line burst, lowering residents' water pressure and causing the loss of a half- million gallons of water, said Pam Libby, Collier County water distribution manager. Ocean Gate workers had rerouted the water line around the construction site but had not adequately secured one of the connections, she said. "Heavy rain combined with the lack of restraint caused it to bail," Libby said.
A county water treatment plant noted a spike in water loss at about 6:30 or 7 p.m., Libby said. Four county workers arrived by 8, shut off the water — leaving everyone south of the line break without water — and called the county's emergency contractor, Mitchell & Stark Construction Co., to assist them. Nine more workers arrived by 10 p.m. and the water was back on by about 1:30 a.m., Libby said.
Ocean Gate workers were "poised and ready to go" to help if necessary, MacDonald said. Officials gave varying estimates of the number of people affected by the line break. MacDonald said about 60 homes lost water service. Libby said no more than 150 connections, including homes and condominiums, lost service.
Capri Civic Association treasurer Biff Pearson estimated that perhaps 300 people lost service. But it's difficult to tell because so many residents are out of town this time of year, Pearson said.
Civic Association president Joe Langkawel said he found his answering machine full when he came home late Sept. 5. "I finally just deleted the whole thing," Langkawel said. "I (had) never filled my machine before. Even when I'm on vacation, I don't get that many phone calls."
Libby said the county received about 30 calls that night from people complaining about the water. The county will bill the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for the mishap, Libby said. The DEP manages Rookery Bay in cooperation with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Libby estimated the cost at about $5,000.
The culvert is the first part of an estimated $5 million effort, known as the Tarpon Bay Hydrologic Restoration Project, that Capri residents and Rookery Bay officials began six years ago. Plans also call for construction of a second culvert farther south on Capri Boulevard, a bridge farther north on Capri Boulevard, and a canoe- and kayak-launch site near the corner of Collier and Capri boulevards.
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