Cape Coral approves spreader agreement
City Cape Coral City Council approved the North Spreader Ecosystem Management Agreement on Monday, giving the go-ahead to a set of projects supporters say would help restore and maintain the delicate ecological balance of the area.
The vote may make little difference to the overall agreement process, however, as a 11 of the 20 stakeholders have already supported replacing the Ceitus Boat-lift/Barrier instead of pushing ahead with the NEB, or Net Ecological Benefit, projects.
Although City Council supported those projects, a majority vote supporting replacement of the barrier likely will move the next stage to the courtroom, where the state’s Department of Environmental Protection will defend the agreement process, which unfolded over more than two years.
Cape Coral has 45 days to file the necessary paperwork to begin rebuilding the barrier, if the majority vote stands.
But for now, support by council means they feel those NEB projects are a far better solution then replacing the barrier.
“There’s no doubt the analysis performed proved the projects are better for the ecosystem then putting the barrier back,” said Councilmember Pete Brandt, who served as the council’s liaison for the process.
Brandt added, “There have been no qualified engineering analysis to prove the barrier would be better … whatever happens, it’s imperative we keep the barrier out.”
The agreement process likely locked over bringing sewers to North Cape Coral.
Phil Buchanan of Pine Island, representative of several stakeholders who voted to replace the barrier, said recently that the city’s unwillingness to devise a workable plan to bring sewers to that part of the city was frustrating.
City Engineer Oliver Clarke said development in the area did not warrant sewers, and that the project would likely face trouble being bonded.
By supporting the NEB projects, DEP Director John Iglehart said the agreement has “condition based timing” to bring sewers to the north, but he didn’t know the exact time frame, other then saying that 35 percent density west of Burnt Store Road would trigger sewers.
He said many of the NEB projects were put together quickly, and there’s time to fine tune the projects when, and if, the application process starts.
“It’s somewhere out in the future, we don’t know when,” Iglehart said.
Councilmember Kevin McGrail, whose district is home to the spreader and the potential agreement, said that residents who are affected don’t have to worry about sewers being installed in the immediate future.
He said potential litigation could also push that timeframe back further.
“I see this taking four to five years for the litigation,” McGrail said. “It will definitely buy time for people in that area for sewers.”
Mayor John Sullivan, who voted against the agreement, said forcing sewers on residents will only do harm.
“If we want to go ahead with this thing with 35 percent density it’s a lot of money that’s going to come down on the residents,” Sullivan said. “We don’t seem to have all the details what the cost is going to be.”