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Failure to address scrub jay mitigation could prove detrimental

By Staff | Apr 2, 2011

Cape Coral City Council will again tackle what to do with a Florida Scrub Jay mitigation plan during its workshop on Monday, a decision that could cost the city $788,025.
The plan calls for an initial restoration of $465,025, and $323,000 for long-term maintenance of the site, which lays on Conservation 20/20 land in Alva, which would be conducted on the city’s behalf by Lee County.
City Manager Gary King is encouraging council to accept the plan to avoid any adverse effects, according to a memo dated March 25.
King writes not moving forward with the plan could have a “debilitating” effect on the city, and that currently his office is pursuing 20/20 funding from the county to help offset the conservation plan’s cost.
Planning and Growth Manager Derek Burr has said the city has four options, for dealing with the scrub jay situation, including the interlocal agreement.
Should city council decide not to support the agreement, the city could either convert portions of the festival park property into a Florida scrub jay habitat at a cost of more than $1 million; purchase land through the Florida Scrub Jay compensatory fund at a cost of $8 million; or do nothing, precluding any development of the Festival Park.
Should council decide to remove fill dirt and plant scrub oaks at Festival Park, Burr said the city’s model airplane club would still be able to use the property, but could not speculate on the long- term effects of creating a habitat within the park.
Burr added that “large events” would not be allowed at the park without first consulting Florida Fish and Wildlife, if council decides to take that route.
Burr also said if city council chooses to do nothing, single family homeowners could also be affected, as owners of a 10,000-square-foot lot could be required to pay $26,000 in estimated mitigation costs should the birds expand their habitat.
If council decides to approve the recommended plan, the city will be issued an incidental take permit, which would cover all of Cape Coral in the event scrub jays pop up in other areas.
Paying the nearly $800,000 for the mitigation plan is the right thing to do, according to Councilmember Marty McCLain, who doesn’t believe the problem will be resolved by the birds simply flying away.
He said the city has seven years to expend the funds, and they are not required in one lump sum.
Doling the funds out in payments lessens the blow, he said, and protects the entire city.
“Doing nothing is not the solution,” he said. “People aren’t clear what the mitigation does. As painful as it is to spend the money, we’re obligated to protect those birds.”
Councilmember Pete Brandt could not be reached for comment.