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Second workshop held for Bimini mooring field

By Staff | May 1, 2018

If there are two words to describe many residents’ feelings regarding the proposed Bimini Basin mooring field, they would be “still skeptical.”

The city and Stantec Engineering held a second public workshop on the mooring field Tuesday at the Chester Street Resource Center, to gather further input from the public and to show what they came up with after the first meeting last month.

What they got was a group of people who still weren’t sold on the idea, as concerns persisted regarding water quality, pump services, people who essentially live on their boats and the number of boats allowed.

J.C. Poindexter, commodore of the Cape Coral Sailing Club, said the issue is complex. While he’s not in favor of derelict boats or pumping sewage into the water, the solutions to these problems are not easy.

“The mooring field is an extreme response to the issue. Councilman Gunter said how successful they have been in enforcing the regulations we have,” Poindexter said. “Mooring fields will bring lots of expense and will cost boaters and taxpayers more than it should. We need to push enforcement.”

Matthew Starr of Stantec presented two proposed designs for the field, both of which placed it in the center of the basin. One of them will hold 18 boats, all 35 feet in length, with another holding 15 boats, with three moorings for 45-foot boats.

There would be a fairway around the edge of the basin for easier in and out capability.

The proposed ordinance for the mooring field would also allow for pump-out of boat waste, either from another boat or upland; an anchoring system; upland facilities; and more.

The plans come from input at the April 3 meeting in which residents said they wanted a field that only handled between 10 and 25 boats. This proved to be a compromise.

But this was a group that wasn’t easily pleased. They said the fecal colliform levels are so high that they find it amazing anything could live in there. One resident proposed closing the basin so it can cleanse itself.

From an economic standpoint, they didn’t see much hope for a Bimini Basin mooring field without a developed Bimini Basin.

Jason Pim, a member of CMCS Sailing Club based out of Cape Coral Yacht Club, said the field could work if done right, but there are so many hurdles to do that.

“We can’t pass an ordinance for the sake of passing an ordinance. I think enforcement is the problem to start with and I don’t think a field changes that much,” Pim said. “With all these people with concerns, you need someone to monitor things with a hawkish eye.”

Earlier in the afternoon, the proposed mooring field was presented to the CRA during its meeting and was given rave reviews from Linda Biondi, vice chairperson.

“I like what they’re doing and I like that they’re talking to the harbormaster from Naples. If we coordinate some things and learn from them, we’re going to have a good spot,” Biondi said. “It will help us eliminate the bad things that are going on and help develop the area.”

Mayor Joe Coviello and Councilmember John Gunter, whose district Bimini Basin is in, were at both the CRA and mooring field hearings.

Many of the complaints regarded bacteria in the water, presumably dumped out of boats by boaters.

Coviello expressed his support and said that with all the recent problems with fecal bacteria in the water, with levels that are almost off the charts, he wonders if there isn’t something other than boaters causing it.

“The fecal count is coming from somewhere else. Some of these sewers are 40 years old and were made of clay. This problem started years ago,” Coviello said. “I’m proud that the City Council is addressing this and coming up with a solution.

Gunter said the mooring field has been a priority but enforcement of laws regarding trespassing and tying boats to trees in someone’s yard has to be considered.

Currently, under Florida law, and with no existing mooring field, there is no legal way to regulate boat anchoring within the basin without a city ordinance. A mooring field would allow the city to regulate boat anchoring within the mooring field once adopted and permitted through various agencies.

City Council will hold hearings on the field on Mondays, June 4 and June 11, where an ordinance will likely be voted on in time for the summer hiatus.

The field would still have to pass on the state and federal level, which could take between 12 and 18 months.