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Army Corps of Engineers to meet in Cape Coral, Lehigh, on Tuesday

By Staff | Jul 30, 2018

The great blue-green algal bloom outbreak of 2018 has impacted numerous municipalities across Southwest Florida- with Cape Coral being right at the forefront.

Residents have taken to social media and government platforms to voice their opinions and displeasure about water quality issues along with the impact it’s having on their health, businesses and property values.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District announced a series of public meetings, originally slated for three-locations – the closest for Cape residents being Lehigh- to allow the public to learn more about the Lake Okeechobee Watershed Restoration Project that will, hopefully, remedy water quality.

The Corps has now added a fourth location – Cape Coral.

Over the weekend, the city of Cape Coral announced an additional meeting to be held at 12:30 p.m. the Yacht Club Ballroom on Tuesday, before the 6 p.m. Lehigh session, thanks to the determination of local advocates.

“I went to a meeting a few weeks ago where our residents were quite frustrated about our waterways and water quality. I have been following this issue for a very long time and have clients and customers who are affected by the algae”, said Gloria Tate, a former Cape council member who spearheaded the drive for the additional meeting in the city. “There was a posting by the Cape Coral Civic Association for the meeting to discuss the Lake O long-term water release plan in Lehigh tomorrow night on Facebook. I realize that meeting is for the long-range plan for Lake O, but it seems to me this type of information is what our residents need to hear first-hand. At the last meeting we were encourage to write to our elected officials and educate ourselves on who to vote for. I just didn’t think the residents felt like they had an opportunity to voice their concerns to the people who are releasing the waters.”

Tate initially reached out to a spokesperson from the Corps and posed this question: “Lehigh is a long drive for Cape Coral residents, and the most affected area in Lee County in Cape Coral, so my simple question was why not come to Cape Coral and hold a meeting?”

The response she received was one of venue and audio visual capabilities. Tate assured Corps officials she could provide the same accommodations for the meeting as the Lehigh venue at the Lee County Mosquito and Hyacinth Control Districts office.

The Corps told her if she could secure a venue, they would come to Cape Coral.

“I called the city manager and the mayor with this information. From that point of confirmation that a meeting was possible for Tuesday, Mayor (Joe) Coviello and City Manager (John) Szerlag took charge of the set up and coordination of a facility,” Tate said.

Tate’s efforts have come to fruition as the meeting has been given the green light so that many more Cape residents can hear straight from the Corps about the nutrient-rich water releases that critics say continue to pollute Cape canal’s and waterways.

“I hope the residents of Cape Coral have the opportunity to have their concerns addressed by the government agency that is directly affecting our quality of life,” Tate said. “I know from my career in politics, we can write letters, we can vote people in and out of office, but it is ultimately the voice of the people who come together to have their concerns heard directly to those affecting our health that will create change.”

The intended subject of the meetings called by the Corps is the creation of an above-ground wetland attenuation feature and several aquifer storage and recovery wells in an area north of the lake. The proposed plan also describes the restoration of 5,300 acres of wetlands in the area.

“This plan provides additional flexibility for managing water north of the lake in a manner consistent with Everglades’ restoration goals,” said Lisa Aley, planning technical lead for the Lake Okeechobee Watershed Restoration Project in a written statement. “We hope that people join us for the public meetings, and look forward to hearing from people living and working in the area on this proposed plan.”

Those planning to attend the meeting in Cape Coral should be aware that official public comment will not be taken down for submission into the Army Corps project report pertaining to features proposed north of Lake Okeechobee. This will be offered at the Lehigh meeting and available for submission via email at the link below.

The Cape Coral Yacht Club, site of the 12:30 p.m. meeting Tuesday, is at 5819 Driftwood Parkway.

The Lee County Mosquito and Hyacinth Control Districts, where the Corps will gather input from 6-8 p.m. Tuesday, is at 15191 Homestead Road in Lehigh Acres.

The two other public meeting locations will be in Stuart and Okeechobee.

For more information on the Lake Okeechobee Watershed Restoration Project and to email your comments to the Corps, visit www.saj.usace.army.mil/LOWRP/.

Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj