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Chiquita Lock to be repaired

By Staff | Mar 5, 2013

The aging Chiquita Lock will be repaired rather than removed or replaced – at least in the short term.

Cape Coral City Council Council voted unanimously Monday to approve repairs of $200,000 to the lock and $50,000 for a study on whether the lock can be removed at a later date.

These fixes are contingent on whether the city can get money from a GAC pollutionary trust fund, according to Steve Neff, public works director.

“The Florida Department of Environmental Protection thought these were good uses for the repair of the lock and some enhancements,” Neff said. “It’s a good first step under any future scenario for fixing the lock and can be done more quickly.”

Last week, the council did not make a decision on whether to remove the lock, fix it or build a new one.

Monday, Neff suggested taking money from an $800,000 trust fund to fix the lock, since the city has no money available in the general fund to consider any of the options previously presented.

“This is a short-term recommendation. It’s money well spent no matter what,” Neff said. “We’ll get five or six years, so the payback would be good.”

Councilmember Kevin McGrail agreed, adding that a water study should be added since the passing of the fertilizer ordinance last year.

“We need to address the water quality issues of today, not of five to seven years ago,” McGrail said.

Councilmember Chris Chulakes-Leetz said a better study, to be done by an independent firm, should be to get water quality levels on the same day on the west side of the lock and east, down the Caloosahatchee River to the Big and Little Shell islands, between Old and New 41 in Fort Myers.

Project Manager Oliver Clark said the city has data going back 10 to 12 years on many environmental issues. About the only one they don’t have is for sediment analysis for metals.

Neff believed a study on water quality would be a good use for the GAC funds.

Talk about installing a parallel lock (at a cost of $13 million) all but disappeared, but the possibility of taking down the lock stayed on the table.

Neff said, through personal experience, that it would take eight to 10 years to go through the process of removal. When pushed by Mayor John Sullivan as to whether it could happen quicker, Neff said if all the planets aligned, it could take six.

“Physically it wouldn’t take so long to remove it. But, the DEP has to protect the waters to make sure it’s protected, so those issues have to be addressed,” Neff said.

He also assured Councilmember Rana Erbrick the repairs would be made with the trust money with general fund money to be reimbursed later.

The motions for the $200,000 for lock repair and the $50,000 for the study are contingent on the city getting the GAC funds.

It costs about $150,000 annually to maintain the lock.