Barrier re-placement letter pending
All the stakeholders in the North Spreader Ecosystem Management Agreement have cast their votes, and the majority overwhelmingly support replacing the barrier instead of moving ahead with the Net Ecosystem Benefit projects.
Fourteen stakeholders — including the Audubon of Southwest Florida, the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation, and Charlotte County — voted to put the barrier back in.
Four stakeholders supported the suite of ecosystem benefit projects. Those stakeholders were the City of Cape Coral, South Florida Water Management District, Friends of the Charlotte Harbor Estuary, and the Northwest Neighborhood Association.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Southwest Florida Regional Planing Council abstained from the vote.
DEP Regional Director John Iglehart said his agency is going to send a letter to the city that will require them to submit an application to replace the barrier within 45 days of its receipt.
The city will then submit a request to use funds they have in escrow to replace the barrier.
Once the permit is issued to construct the barrier, Iglehart said the city has 275 days to complete construction.
“Those processes are time consuming,” Iglehart said.
DEP recently completed a dye test to understand the tidal flow of the spreader. More dye tests will conducted, Iglehart said, but should have no impact the city’s time frame to replace the barrier.
“Dye studies confirmed what most of us thought already, but we still have a couple more questions to answer up stream,” he said.
The North Spreader Ecosystem Management Agreement was a two and half year process to find a way keep fresh and salt water from mixing, other then simply replacing the barrier.
The stakeholders essentially ended where they began, and while Iglehart said the DEP has “no real feeling” about the process’ results, it achieved what state officials set out to do: learn a lot about the system.
“We didn’t really have an idea where we were going, we just opened it up to see where it might go,” he said.
With Cape Coral City Council voting in favor of a mitigation plan — essentially against replacing the barrier — officials previously predicted the matter could end up in court if the city balks at a forced re-installation or if any of the other stakeholders on either side decide to challenge either replacement or mitigation.
Officials said the litigation process, if initiated, could result in a four-to-five year delay before any action was taken to resolve the water-quality issues related to the city’s removal of the old, failed, barrier due to breaches around the structure.