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Ceitus boat lift re-installation still in city’s court

By Staff | Feb 12, 2011

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is still waiting for additional information from the city of Cape Coral before the agency makes its decision to replace the Ceitus boat lift/barrier.
John Igleheart, Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s director for the southern district, said the city has until March 17 to supply the information.
Although the city submitted its application to replace the barrier, the DEP felt that more information was necessary.
“We’ll review the information, ascertain whether it completes the application, and if it does there’s a 90-day time frame to issue or deny the permit,” he said.
An Eco-system Management Agreement Process completed last year yielded a set of environmental projects that could help the spreaders system recover some of its natural function, but the process itself left a majority of the stakeholders at odds over the timing of the projects, specifically sewer systems along the spreader canal.
The remaining stakeholders with a dog in the fight, so to speak, are Florida DEP, the city of Cape Coral and Lee County.
Igleheart said DEP could seek more information if they’re not satisfied with what the city files by March 17.
“If we feel it’s not complete, it triggers another round of requests,” Igleheart said.
Meanwhile, the various stakeholders who took part in the NSEMA process continue to butt heads over their positions.
City and county officials and private citizens engaged in an early morning debate at Gulf Coast Village on Friday, but by the end of their presentations neither side gained much ground on the other.
David Scott, who was part of the NSEMA process and was one of the presenters on Friday, likened the continued debate to “spinning their wheels,” as the matter is now legally in the hands of only Cape Coral, Lee County and Florida DEP.
Scott believes in a “triage” approach to the identified set of projects instead of replacing the barrier.
“We need to take the most important projects first,” Scott said.
To replace the barrier? Or not to replace the barrier? That’s where the battle lines have been drawn, both before and after and NSEMA process, and while the public at large continues to wait and see if the DEP will issue the permit to replace the structure, the debate rages on.
Lee County Commissioner Ray Judah, who voted to replace the barrier instead of the alternative, a set of environmental projects, said the agreement was that if the NSEMA didn’t yield a majority of happy stakeholders, then the barrier would go back in. Judah said the agreement should stand.
“We’re all neighbors and friends and we need to realize there was a commitment made and the commitment needs to be honored,” Judah said.
Cape Coral Councilmember Pete Brandt, one of the city’s representatives during the NSEMA process, said the city is not polluting the waters of Matlacha Pass or the spreader eco-system.
He admits that sewers would one day be needed, but for now there are a clear set of projects to move the health of the estuary along without replacing the barrier.
Pine Island activist Phil Buchanan, who also participated in the NSEMA, said a large misconception about the project is that the issue is water quality, when instead it’s distribution.
Putting the barrier back is the only way to return some of the spreader’s natural flow.
“The estuary is why we live here, it’s why tourists come here, we have to put the barrier back,” he said.