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Council given update on water quality issues

By Staff | Jan 17, 2018

The Sanibel City Council unanimously approved two resolutions opposing changes to Lee County’s code regarding septic tanks and the allowance of offshore drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico.

The council voted 5-0 at its Jan. 9 meeting to support a resolution “strongly opposing” proposed changes to the Lee County Land Development Code that would allow for septic tanks to be constructed seaward of the 1978 Coastal Construction Control Line.

The council also voted to support a resolution opposing offshore oil and natural gas drilling, specifically opposing the language proposed in HR Bill 4239.

According to the resolution, the Secure American Energy Act “would expand exploration and drilling activities along the coast of Florida, would place severe limitations on protections for national marine monuments and marine resources, and would justify impacts to marine mammals associated with oil and gas exploration and drilling activities.”

Council Member Holly Smith questioned making a small change to language.

“Should we also include the word ‘strongly’ as we did in the previous resolution, if that would be appropriate?” she asked.

The rest of the council voiced agreement.

“I think that’s some good advice,” Council Member Mick Denham said.

According to Gov. Rick Scott’s office, Florida’s coastline has since been removed from consideration for future oil drilling following a meeting Scott had with U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke.

On Jan. 11, Congressman Francis Rooney introduced legislation to permanently ban drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. HR 4770, the Protecting and Securing Florida’s Coastline Act, amends the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act of 2006 to permanently extend current moratorium boundaries.

Rooney noted in a prepared statement that the 2006 one expires in 2022.

“Offshore drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico is incompatible with our environment and endangers our military readiness It is critical for the future of Florida and our tourism-based economy that this effort to extend the moratorium succeed,” he said. “I am thankful for the hard work of Gov. Scott and the responsiveness of Secretary Zinke in carving Florida out of the Administration’s updated drilling plan, but we must ensure that future generations do not have to continue fighting this battle.”

Also at the Sanibel meeting, the council was provided an update on water quality issues.

“A couple happy things to report, a couple unhappy things to report,” James Evans, director of Natural Resources, said.

He reported that the elevation of Lake Okeechobee is currently 15.34 feet, putting it within the preferred 12 feet to 15 feet range. Target discharges are also within the preferred standards.

“So those are regulatory discharges at this time,” Evans said.

“The salinities throughout the estuaries are really in a good range,” he added. “The water clarity is starting to improve. It’s actually improved pretty dramatically over the past month at the east end beaches, as well through San Carlos Bay.”

On Jan. 2, however, poor levels of bacteria were reported at Tarpon Bay Beach, with moderate levels reported at Lighthouse Beach Park. As a result, a swimming advisory was placed on Tarpon Bay Beach.

The Florida Department of Health in Lee County lifted its advisory on Jan. 9.