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Cape asked to address spreader ‘breaches’

By Staff | Dec 30, 2010

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection wants Cape Coral to provide more information before they issue a permit to replace the barrier and boat lift along the North Spreader canal.
A letter dated Dec. 17 lists 11 items DEP wants the city to accomplish or provide, including finding a way to deal with “breaches” along the western portion of the canal.
These breaches, as identified in the letter, are allowing canal water and state water to mix. Part of the consent order for the project requires the two to keep from mixing, but the city provided a design that does not address the breaches, according to the letter.
Pine Island environmentalist Phil Buchanan thinks the DEP is misinterpreting the project’s consent order, and the city is being asked to accomplish something that’s “impossible”.
Buchanan said they aren’t breaches at all, but instead “flow-ways” that allow for water to naturally flow from east to west.
“I think they’re making an erroneous interpretation of the consent order. Water is supposed to flow west,” Buchanan said. “It’s an impossible condition … where is the water supposed to go? It’s supposed to go west.”
Two years after a number of stakeholders tried to hammer out the details of the North Spreader Ecomanagement System Management Agreement, or NESMA, the group is back where it began, which is at odds as to how environmental issues should be handled.
Following failed support of the Net-Ecosystem Benefit projects, the city is required to re-install the boat lift and barrier, which blew out four years ago, and began the NESMA process in the first place.
City council voted to support the NEB’s and not the barrier/boat lift, but there were few stakeholders among the parties that made up the coalition who shared their view.
The city now has until March 17 to provide the additional information requested by the DEP, but can also request a 90-day extension.
DEP Environmental Specialist Meghan Mills said the request for more information is standard operating procedure.
“We have certain rules and criteria all permits must meet. At this time we don’t have enough information to verify the application meets that criteria,” Mills said. “If we feel they (the applicant) haven’t satisfied our questions, that process can go back and forth.”
The Northwest Neighborhood Association is starting a signature collection campaign in opposition of replacing the barrier.
NWNA’s Nate Bliss said the group has collected 450 signatures so far, and is shooting for at least 1,000, though Bliss said he wouldn’t be surprised if the totals tops that figure.
Bliss said the science formulated through the NESMA process pointed to not replacing the barrier, and that the county’s elected officials need to understand that simply replacing the barrier/boat lift will not solve the problems long term.
Bliss said the NSEMA process might have been doomed from the start, as the stakeholders were likely destined to disagree.
“It was inevitable from the beginning we would not reach it (an agreement),” Bliss said. “In my view it was a waste of time, but I’m not sure how other people feel.”