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City postpones Ceitus barrier meeting

By Staff | Mar 9, 2012

A public meeting next week on the Ceitus barrier has been postponed by the city of Cape Coral until the county offers scientific grounds for its stance on the issue.

The Cape Coral City Council and Lee County Board of County Commissioners were scheduled to come together for a joint meeting Tuesday in the Cape. The topic was the replacement of the barrier in the North Spreader Canal.

On Thursday, the city announced that it was postponing the meeting.

“Cape Coral believes a joint meeting between the elected bodies is premature and should be postponed until the county provides the scientific basis for their position on the Ceitus barrier,” city spokeswoman Connie Barron reported via a prepared statement.

According to Barron, city and county officials met last month at the county’s request to discuss the county’s contention that the barrier be reinstalled. It was removed with the county’s support to alleviate further damage to the estuary and to provide an opportunity for it to recover.

“Cape Coral does not support reinstalling the barrier,” she stated. “This canal had been blocked twice, resulting in major erosion damage.”

At last month’s meeting, each side was to provide scientific reasoning on the pros and cons of replacing the barrier, according to Barron. The city also wanted to address the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s concerns about potential negative effect from reinstalling the barrier.

“The city attended the meeting in good faith and was ready to present their scientific documentation in support of not replacing the barrier,” she wrote. “The county did not do the same.”

According to Barron, postponing Tuesday’s meeting will allow both parties “another opportunity to make a good faith effort to reach a viable solution.”

Lee County Commissioner Tammy Hall was OK with the city’s move.

“We feel we’re a partner with the Cape,” she said Friday. “We want to accommodate Cape Coral.”

Hall added that the board is trying to find a resolution that is best for the environment. The county is challenging the Department of Environmental Protection’s ruling that the city does not have to put the lift/barrier back in place.

“I think we’re prepared to present the reasons why the board was prepared to move forward with that,” she said.

According to Hall, the solutions offered up during last month’s meeting “were very far out into the future.”

“So what do we do for now?” she asked, adding that a lift is not the best solution, but that something needs to be done for the time being.

Lee County has $1.5 million sitting in escrow to help address the issue.

In June, the county’s request for a hearing to replace the barrier was dismissed by the DEP. The dismissal order stated, in part, that the DEP could not find any attempt by the city to undermine its own application to replace the barrier, as stated in the county’s petition.

Lee County filed the petition as a means of forcing the city and DEP to replace the barrier after an Ecosystem Manage-ment Agreement process found stakeholders at odds on whether the barrier should be replaced.

Cape Coral has been working on its own set of projects to protect the natural balance of the estuary and Matlacha Pass. In July, the City Council unanimously approved a water quality im-provement plan for the area.

Projects identified in the plan are stormwater treatment improvements, maintained dredging profile, revising seawall engineering standards and more.