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Residents decry dredging lack

By Staff | Aug 28, 2010

Chuck Bergman said the canal behind his southeast Cape home hasn’t been dredged in more then a decade.
During low tide, the water level dips below two feet, often grounding his boat, leaving it stuck in the mud.
As a member of the Cape Coral Sailing Club, Bergman is worried the city is not taking care of its most plentiful asset, the 400 miles of canals.
“All the literature that’s put out on Cape Coral claims that we’ve got 400 miles of navigable canals, and they don’t take care of them,” Bergman said. “Every canal has some kind of problem.”
During the height of the city’s dredging program, the public works department was operating six dredges.
Now working only with two dredges, the dredging program is one of many that have taken a budgetary hit over the years.
Public Works Director Chuck Pavlos said during a budget workshop Thursday that his department was keeping service levels “acceptable”, but pointed to dredging as being cut back significantly.
How the dredging program works, exactly, could not be ascertained this week.
Officials with the city’s dredging program did not respond to repeat attempts by The Breeze to find out what the dredging protocol is.
In an email to city spokeswoman Connie Barron dated Aug. 20, John Ridge, from the program, did write that Bergman must have been one of the first people to have his canal dredged if it had been a decade or more.
He also wrote that while he could have the canal charted, he added that the dredge would not “see use any time soon in this area”.
Connie Barron said saltwater canals, and canals that lead directly to the river, take precedence over any other canals in the city.
Where the two dredges that are in operation are working now also could not be ascertained this week.
Barron did say that a problem the dredging crews face now is having a place to dump the fill that’s pulled from the canal bottom, and that it takes “six months to do an eight-foot -wide canal”.
Facing a salt water canal, Bergman is also worried about his home taking a serious depreciation in value if the canal is not navigable.
With 400 miles of canals, Bergman thinks homes citywide could take a massive hit in value if their canals aren’t navigable.
“You have to understand, every canal has a problem,” he said.
Charles Tomlins, former Cape Financial Services director from 1980 – 1990, said Bergman’s concerns could be correct, but right now was hard to quantify.
He did say that if the city, already hurting from the massive loss of property values, would feel an increased pinch if thousands of canal homes and lots would suddenly be worth less.
“If the seawall lots were turned into just regular city lots, what would be the change in valuation for the city?” Tomlins asked, adding, “Some money will be lost if the valuation goes down, I just don’t know how much it would be.”