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Cape officials: Efforts under way on the water quality homefront

By Staff | Aug 7, 2018

Every time Cheryl Anderson talks about the blue-green algae crisis in Cape Coral, she gets a little emotional. As a member of Friends of Cape Coral Wildlife, that may stand to reason.

She – and numerous other residents, – on Monday once again made a plea for the Cape Coral City Council to act as the water quality crisis continues.

Officials advised there is some progress being made.

Lee County has received $700,000 in Department of Environmental Protection Florida Harmful Algal Bloom Management Grant Program money. A contractor has begun suctioning algae out of the canals in North Fort Myers and the removal vessel is expected to come to Cape Coral sometime this week.

Meanwhile, Mayor Joe Coviello told those attending the city council meeting that he and several other area mayors were going to the Lee County Board of County Commissioners with a request asking Gov. Rick Scott to extend the state of emergency he declared due to the toxic algal blooms contaminating the Caloosahatchee and other area waterways, including Cape canals.

This came on top of news that U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney has asked President Donald Trump to declare a national state of emergency in Florida so even more funding and resources can be made available.

Anderson said the lake she lives near isn’t affected by the algae but she is sickened nonetheless by the stench in the air.

“I’m on allergy medicine all the time so my headaches don’t bother me so badly,” Anderson said. “What I see are pictures of all the dead animals, the fish, manatees, turtles. It’s heartbreaking to think of all the hours we’ve spent and to see them murdered at our own hands and nobody will take responsibility.”

Anderson stressed the need to do something different, to stop electing the same people, and for people to put pressure on everyone involved to act now in sending the nutrient-laden water discharged from Lake Okeechobee south, rather than east and west, when water levels get too high and so threaten the dike around the lake.

The mayor has done a good job, she said, but that the issue is much bigger than the city and state and federal officials need to stop the problem at the source if anything is going to improve.

As for the potential fixes, Anderson said she was very skeptical, since much of what is happening regarding the algae removal is experimental and nobody knows what the actual result will be.

Councilmember David Stokes saw the potential using a boat that could suck up the algae and asked if the city could possibly get something like that.

Jeff Pearson, utilities director, told council a Cape Coral company may have a product that can kill algae in salt water. He said there are many ways to kill algae, but there could be unintended consequences to the ecosystem.

In other business, the city council also addressed the city-owned acreage dubbed the Seven Islands.

The elected board passed a pair of ordinances in regards to the property in the north Cape, one to amend the city’s comprehensive plan to establish a Seven Islands sub-district land use and the future land use map to designate a parcel as mixed-use comprising the Seven Islands sub-district.

The parameters for the sub-district includes 995 dwelling units with up to three multi-family residential structures up to eight stories high, 70,000 square feet of commercial space, including a restaurant and hotel, a 40,000-square-foot community center, a marina and park uses.

John Karcher, vice-president of the Northwest Neighborhood Association, said the ordinance has been six years in the making after the city purchased the land as part of a then-controversial large land purchase in 2012.

“There was quite a ruckus about that, but Seven Islands is the premier waterfront property, and what could be and that vision is here to approve,” Karcher said. “We have worked closely in pulling this together. Tonight is about the framework of the vision we have.”

Also, City Manager John Szerlag unveiled something that was found during the North 2 Utility Expansion Project: a piece of the front leg of a wooly mammoth about 10,000 years old, which predates human occupation in Florida.

The bone fragment will be donated to the Cape Coral Historical Society.