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Rotary Happenings: Rotary Club, members aiming to ‘be the inspiration’ for new year

By Staff | Aug 22, 2018

PHOTO PROVIDED Lesli Hayes, a senior environmental specialist with Marine Services at the Lee County Division of Natural Resources, was the guest speaker at the Sanibel-Captiva Rotary Club's recent meeting.

With our new Rotary year now underway as of July 1 and with the announcing of our Rotary International President’s Rotary motto for the year, “Be the Inspiration,” Sanibel-Captiva Rotary Club President John Danner deemed that our club this year will “be the inspiration” in a number of ways for programs specifically designed to inspire young people – giving them an opportunity to unlock their potential, develop their skills and broaden their horizons.

Programs this year will include sponsorship of inbound and outbound Rotary Youth Exchange students – for secondary school students, a new Interact Club at The Sanibel School – for middle school youth to discover the power of volunteering and social action and re-establishing a Rotaract Club at Florida SouthWestern State College – helping young people contribute to the community and learn about professional development. The San-Cap club is also awarding four college scholarship this academic year, with the awards to be announced soon.

Just last week, the club’s exchange student from Taiwan arrived in the United States. It was a long complex journey with delayed flights, canceled flights and redirected flights, but finally 15-year-old Li-sen Chou arrived not in Fort Myers as planned, but in Miami. The club thanks his amazing host family – Liz and John Van de Velde and son, Ian – for driving to Miami to pick him up. Ian Van de Velde is our outgoing student exchange student and left for Taiwan this week. More news on the two students will be coming in the next few months.

Now, on to another topic for Rotary last Friday. The week was frothed with bad news about the water quality and beach conditions surrounding our islands; the green algae, red tide, dead fish and sea animals, and toxic air have certainly stained our islands’ reputation of an environmentally clean and beautiful place to live and visit. Hopefully Mother Nature will be forgiving and provide relief from this horrific happening and our politicians throughout the state and in Washington, D.C., will heed Mother Nature’s warning and finally get the green message in the bottle that there has been a serious assault on our most precious and beautiful environment and start working together toward a solution that addresses the pollution of our waters now, before it is too late.

With that being said, our guest speaker on Friday was Lesli Hayes, a senior environmental specialist with Marine Services at the Lee County Division of Natural Resources. She had some positive news regarding our counties waterways and the artificial reef program for Lee County. Just to note, Hayes’ responsibilities do not involve the handling of the current water crisis in our waterways. Her office deals with abandoned and derelict vessels, aids to navigation and the artificial reefs program.

The county spent $100,000 in 2017 to legally remove abandoned and derelict vessels from our county’s waterways. The cost is extremely high and removal cannot take place until ownership of the vessel is researched and either established or proven to be completely abandoned. This takes months and sometime years to complete. There are approximately 50 boat removals per year for our waterways.

Anyone who is a boater knows the importance of using navigational charts to cruise any waterways. Aids to navigation, commonly called channel markers, and uniform waterway markers are in place throughout the waters of Lee County for boating safety purposes. Boaters need to keep a sharp lookout at all times and learn to recognize waterway markers and understand what they mean. Shifts of waterway markers and damage happen regularly and Hayes’ department is responsible for the maintenance of all navigational signage and equipment. The department regularly inspects the signs, but does count on boaters to report any trouble with the navigational markers. This is for the safety of everyone on and below the surface of our water.

Now on to the good news about the county’s Artificial Reefs Program. Hayes told us that Lee County manages a network of artificial reef sites from Charlotte Harbor to 30 miles offshore. Currently in place are 20 artificial reefs made from concrete culverts, sunken ships, railroad hopper cars, barges, bridge rubble, tires and cement mixer drums and the outstanding placement of the USS Mohawk artificial reef in 2012. The health and well being of the reefs are outstanding.

“Residents and visitors can explore all the splendor of the area’s thriving reef community through safe and responsible boating, diving, fishing and snorkeling,” according to the artificial reefs booklet.

A question was brought up regarding the effect red tide and green algae are having on the artificial reefs. Hayes’ answer was extremely welcomed – no real damage indicated at this time. Surface pollution does not seem to be affecting the reefs.

For information about the Sanibel-Captiva Rotary Club, visit sanibelrotary.org or www.facebook.com/sancaprotary. The club meets every Friday at 7 a.m. at the Dunes Golf and Tennis Club, at 949 Sand Castle Road, Sanibel; visitors are always welcome to attend.