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Cape Coral to team up with Sanibel on appeal

By Staff | Sep 26, 2018

Sanibel Mayor Kevin Ruane had a very busy Monday as he went throughout Lee County to drum up support for an appeal to a decision made by the South Florida Water management District that could impact the ecosystem in our region for years to come.

The first thing on the morning he went to Fort Myers Beach to drum up support from its town council before going to Cape Coral to speak with City Council during a special meeting at City Hall.

Cape Coral, like most other municipalities, gave a thumbs up to Ruane, agreeing to submit a letter to the South Florida Water Man-agement District with other municipalities and to take part in the appeal process pertaining to minimum flow levels for the Caloosahatchee River during dry season.

On Sept. 13, Ruane, Cape Mayor Joe Coviello and other area mayors went to Palm Beach for a water management meeting and asked SFWMD release more water from Lake Okeechobee during the dry season so not as much has to be released in wet season and to keep the salinity levels at a level where it won’t destroy the Caloosahatchee River ecosystem during dry season.

The request fell on deaf ears, as SFWMD only raised the water flow to 400 cubic feet per second, from 300 CFS. Ruane said flows could have been reduced 50 percent had they followed their requests.

“Estuaries are very important during the dry season, but you’re also reducing the water released during wet season. You lower the tub, there’s more water to put in the tub,” Ruane said. “This is a policy issue that has no cost while we wait for reservoirs to be built. This isn’t about Democrat or Republican. This is about water.”

To go to appeal, Ruane said, would likely involve costs, with both sides bringing in their experts. Ruane needed an answer quickly, as the filing deadline for the petition was 5 p.m.

Estero decided against being a petitioner, while Bonita Springs and Fort Myers had yet to meet to discuss its intentions, Cape City Attorney Dolores Menendez said, though Coviello said Bonita Mayor Peter Simmons planned on signing the letter and would discuss the petition at their next meeting.

Coviello encouraged council to take part in the petition.

“I have never seen a group go somewhere to make a request that fell on deaf ears as I did at that meeting,” Coviello said. “The coastal communities were not their best interest. You would have thought following this summer their opinions would have been swayed. Their agenda was set.”

The council, minus Rick Williams who was not present, voted 7-0 to sign the letter and participate in the petition.

“We have an opportunity that isn’t going to cost anything to change minimum flow levels of the lake. It’s a temporary solution that could cause the releases slow down in the wet season,” Coviello said. “We might have to force (SFWMD’s) hand on this.”

Among those who attended the meeting was water advocate Cheryl Anderson, who was thrilled by the city’s response, but lamented the SFWMD and her belief it is thinking only of the agriculture business.

“A unanimous decision is a powerful decision. There are 185,000 people living in the town and the council is speaking with everyone’s voices,” Anderson said. “The district works for agriculture, that’s who’s on that board, and they have to go and be replaced by scientists.”