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Chiquita Lock removal may get legal challenge

Group granted extention to request hearing

December 6, 2018
Island Reporter, Captiva Current, Sanibel-Captiva Islander

Residents opposed to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection issuing notice that it plans to allow the city of Cape Coral to remove a water control device in the South Spreader canal have received an extension to file an appeal contesting the action.

Although the city's legal counsel argued that the eight petitioners lacked standing and has had ample opportunity to express concerns, Chadwick R. Stevens, FDEP deputy general counsel, granted the group an extention until Dec. 14 to file its request for an administrative proceeding.

The FDEP issued its Notice of Intent to issue a permit for the City of Cape Coral to remove the Chiquita Lock in the south spreader last month.

The notice allowed for any party whose "substantial interests" are affected to file a petition by Nov. 28, to request a hearing to challenge the removal.

Several members of a local group that opposes the removal of the Chiquita Boat lock appeared before the Cape Coral City Council Monday night to voice their opposition.

"Our group has appeared before the council at three meetings so far hoping that the council would hold public hearings as promised by (City Councilmember John) Carioscia," Matlacha resident Michael Hannon said.

Hannon also sent three letters to Robert Williams, Esq., FDEP?general counsel, requesting the now-granted extension.

According to Hannon's letter, the notice may suggest the city is in violation of a previous consent order concerning the lock. Consent Order 15 was issued by the Florida Department of Environmental Regulation in 1977 for the installation of the barriers to protect the waters surrounding Cape Coral.

Hannon's letter quotes the notice of intent: "The proposed activity is located within the City's South Spreader Waterway System... and was established pursuant to Consent Order No. 15... to serve as a water distribution system for intercepting and releasing waters... As part of the original consent order, the Department required that boat lifts or boat locks be installed between the Cape Coral waterways and waterways of the State."

"The basis of our case is that Cape Coral is in violation of Consent Order 15, which is still in effect," Hannon said. "That consent order requires Cape Coral to build and maintain the boat lifts. They have not maintained these barriers, the Ceitus barrier is gone, and now they want to remove the Chiquita Lock."

The eight petitioners are Hannon, Matlacha Civic Association, Inc., Karl R. Deigert, Yolanda Olsen, Robert S. Zarranz, Debra Hall, Melanie Hoff and Jessica Blanks.

"I'm pleased the extension was granted and we will file our petition on or before Dec. 14," Hannon said. "The hearing could take place either locally or in Tallahassee."

The city is using Craig Varn of the Tallahassee-based law firm Manson Bolves Donaldson Varn P.A. to represent Cape Coral in the proceedings.

"We learned that the Cape has hired a Tallahassee law firm, Manson Bolves Donaldson Varn P.A., to represent them in this matter," Hannon said. "This will cost Cape Coral anywhere from $250,000 to $500,000."

The firm is one the city has previously retaineds.

"We have used the services of Manson Bolves Donaldson Varn P.A. for environmental legal matters for a few years," Cape Coral interim Assistant City Manager Connie Barron said Thursday.

Terms pertaining to the current matter were not available.

 
 

 

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