Lee County Commissioner Ray Judah centered on Fort Myers Beach and environmental issues during his 25-minute speech as guest speaker of the Greater Fort Myers Beach Area Chamber of Commerce Thursday at Luna Rossa Mediterranean Bistro.
Judah, who has served on the Board of County Commissioners for more than 20 years, praised Beach council members on their diligent public service work before touching on several subjects. He began with the Times Square properties which underwent foreclosure recently.
"We're going to work through those legal entanglements," said Judah. "You now have the support of the Board of County Commissioners to proceed with making the initial inquiries with Fifth Third Bank that has re-taken over the property. We can now discuss our options and
opportunities to enhance public beach access to the acquisition of the undeveloped parcels. That would be a wonderful, aesthetic enhancement for the Beach community. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to overall strengthen the economic vitality of Fort Myers Beach. Stay tuned."
Next issue discussed was the beach restoration plan.
"Unfortunately, the Beach continues to remain vulnerable," said Judah. "While we are not going to be able to move forward with the
comprehensive beach restoration project (Bowditch Point Park to Sterling Ave.), we are still going to proceed with a beach re-nourishment project. We have one last opportunity to secure $2 million the state has obligated to this project. Unless some other
things fall into place where we get the easements from certain large business owners and residents, it looks like the scaled-down version
will allow for us to proceed with the beach re-nourishment from Bowditch to the fishing pier."
Judah reiterated the fact to prevent the continued excretion of sand in the pass, a groin is needed to be built on the northern end of
"This groin will play a huge, pivotal role in maintaining the navigation of that pass and ensure us of any future maintenance
dredging projects that we would have to address in the future," he said.
Regarding Estero Boulevard, the commissioner pointed out the county is still proceeding with the survey of the entire corridor to determine the extent of the right-of-way and encroachments within.
"As we move forward with the town council on improvements such as crosswalks trolley pull-overs and drainage improvements, we'll be able work with a clear understanding of what work can be done in the county ROW," said Judah.
Other pertinent issues included the upcoming SharkFest (chase boat with a film crew; satellite transmitters on sharks to be monitored by scientists); international travel; everglades coalition conference; and the serious pursuit of the South Florida Water Management District purchasing 73,000 acres from U.S. Sugar.
Judah then discussed the use of stimulus dollars to help complete construction in developing bio-fuels at the Florida Bio-fuels Plant at
2744 Edison Ave (Unit 8) in Fort Myers. As part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Lee County received $3,046,600 in
federal stimulus dollars from the U.S. Department of Energy to help turn vegetable oil into bio-diesel fuel.
"By April, they will be up and running to utilize grease and waste oil to make bio-diesel," he said. "I think it's a good investment on the
part of the county and from an environmental standpoint. The children in our school buses will be protected from those toxic diesel fuels.
We'll be able to use the bio-diesels in our fleet of LeeTran Buses and utility vehicles. It also may well save the shrimping industry. If they
can start using the bio-diesels, it hopefully will help them from a financial standpoint."
Ethanol was then brought up as an alternative to fossil fuel.
"They produce it from algae," Judah said. "The sugar that is the byproduct of photosynthesis is then fermented, creating a gas which is
then liquified. The ethanol can also be used by companies that we're working very hard in attracting, and that's herbal sciences. They
utilize the molecular components of the plants to be able to search for cures for cancer, but in a very holistic way. It's not chemical per se
as much as it is biological."
Judah said this new industry may encourage at least 1,000 job opportunities in the area.