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Cape council done talking about boat lift

By Staff | Aug 21, 2012

They’ll talk about clean waterways, they’ll talk about environmental benefits, they’ll even talk about the weather.

But the Cape Coral City Council let it be known it will not discuss the boatlift and barrier at the North Spreader Canal.

During Monday’s regular city council meeting at City Hall, the city council passed a resolution that it would work with the Board of County Commissioners “on projects that provide an environmental benefit to the waterways of the state,” but not on the boat lift, which the state Deptartment of Environmental Protection has deemed a detriment.

The vote was 6-1.

“There are numerous benefits to the environment that have been left waiting to be discussed while we beat the boat lift issue to death,” said Councilmember Kevin McGrail, who authored the resolution that toned down the rhetoric while telling the BOCC it will stand by the FDEP’s decision.

“The state has ruled on it with a final decision. We are standing with that decision.” McGrail said. “Now we welcome to discuss with anyone the best ecologic benefits of the waters of the state.”

Resolution approval drew an ovation from the Northwest Cape Coral Neighborhood Association, of which several dozen were on hand to witness.

“We’re very pleased with the outcome and the council’s vote. It’s been a long process (2-1/2 years) and the council did the right thing,” said Stella Peters, president of the Northwest Cape Coral Neighborhood Association. “The county is the one carving out taxpayer money to study something that’s been studied ad nauseum.”

But not all the council members were in favor of the ordinance. John Carioscia, while agreeing on the boatlift decision, said he was uncomfortable not giving the BOCC the full 180 days agreed to and that by passing the resolution, the council would “go against its word.”

Councilmember Chris Chulakes-Leetz told Carioscia council would not break its word because it doesn’t shorten the 180-day window for discussion as previously agreed upon. That, though, did not stop him from casting the lone no vote.

The tone of the resolution was softer from the one that was put forth last week. That position had accused the county of bad faith and would have cut all discussion on how to best mitigate water quality impacts now that application to replace the barrier/boat lift in the canal has been turned down by the state. Council had also called the county’s adherence to a state statute requiring the city and county to resolve their differences a “sham.”

The new resolution drew praise from Chulakes-Leetz, who shook his hand on the dais in front of Mayor John Sullivan, who liked the harder-hitting resolution previously proferred.

“I chose to leave my sledgehammer home because the residents of Cape Coral used it last weekend,” Chulakes-Leetz said. “The BOCC should know it will be available again on Nov. 6.”

“I love my sledgehammer,” Sullivan quipped. “I still feel the resolution should have been stronger.”

McGrail said some alternatives include installation of a filter marsh at the end of Gator Slough and a freshwater reservoir that would “prevent the salinity problems that the ecologic groups say is a major issue.”

But to discuss the boat lift again is a non-starter.

“The state has ruled on this. We stand by that ruling. We want to move forward with the net ecologic benefits that we agreed to and enhance some of the other opportunities since then,” McGrail said.

On May 15 a meeting was held between the city council and the BOCC; both sides agreed they would resolve the boat lift conflict within 180 days.

Only July 31, the BOCC, in a blue sheet item, approved an appropriation of $500,000 for data collection and for preparing a case of litigation to reinstall the lift, according to the resolution.