homepage logo

Matlacha Civic Association discusses water issues

By Staff | Mar 27, 2019

The topic of last Wednesday’s meeting of the Matlacha Civic Association was water and featured several speakers.

One of the guest speakers was Casey Streeter, co-owner of Island Seafood Market in Matlacha and founder of the Florida Commercial Watermen’s Conservation.

“The goal of FCWC is to gain a better understanding of what’s going on in off-shore waters and share with scientists the data they need to break the cycle of red tide,” Streeter said. “Our commercial fishermen are on the water every day and we need funding to equip our in-shore and off-shore guys with water sampling kits.”

Commercial fishermen would then take multiple water samples going to and returning from their offshore fishing grounds and FCWC will make the data available to NOAA and other science organizations. To date the FCWC has raised enough money to purchase three kits.

According to FloridaHealth.gov, red tide is a harmful algae bloom that can cause skin irritation and burning eyes. It is possible that people in coastal areas may experience varying degrees of eye, nose and throat irritation and persistent symptoms require medical attention. People with respiratory problems (asthma or bronchitis) should avoid red tide areas.

Southwest Florida recently suffered one of the worst periods of red tide in generations. For 16 months, dead fish, dolphins, manatees and other marine life lined the beaches.

“After several months of fundraising, we plan on making a purchase of three units in a couple of weeks,” Streeter said. “They we will have a training session to become certified and we’ll schedule a press conference for everyone to see and understand what we’re doing. The goal is to get as many of these instruments out there as possible.”

FCWC needs funding. Donations to the group can be sent to Island Seafood Market, 4330 Pine Island Road, Matlacha, FL, 33993. Make checks out to Florida Commercial Watermen’s Conservation (FCWC).

You can also visit the group’s website at www.FloridaWatermen.org, email Streeter at casey@floridawatermen.org or visit FCWC’s Facebook page for more information.

Jason Maughan, Sanibel city councilman and candidate for the District 76 state representative, spoke about the importance of supporting Gov. Ron DeSantis and anyone who supports clean water in upcoming elections.

Maughan was raised in Southwest Florida and has hunted and fished the area waters since he was a child.

“I’ve enjoyed hunting and fishing in Southwest Florida my entire life,” Maughan said. “But I didn’t get involved with water quality until about 5 or 6 years ago when I realized what had happened to the oyster beds in the Caloosahatchee River. When I was a boy and we would go out to the islands in the river we would cut our feet in the oyster beds. Today they’re all gone and that’s when I realized how bad things are.”

Maughan believes Big Sugar money has influenced the South Florida Water Management District board for many years and strongly supported DeSantis’ removal of the nine-member board.

Maughan’s criteria for members of the SFWMD board is simple: “If you take Big Sugar money, you’re out. If you hang out with sugar lobbyists, your also out because they are not representing the people’s interests.

“I suggest that all of us, what’s the old saying about hanging together or hanging separately, I suggest that all of us hang together behind a young governor with young children who’s actually coming through on what he promised,” Maughan said.

In his brief comments about the Pine Island/Matlacha incorporation, Maughan stated he is for incorporation as a method of protecting a community but against Matlacha incorporating as a part of a Pine Island incorporation.

Mike Hannon, Matlacha resident and one of the challengers to the removal of Chiquita Lock, presented a video interview with Kevin Irwin about the removal of the lock. Irwin is an ecologist who lives in Bokeelia and teaches at Stamford University.

“Chiquita is one of three barriers put in the 1970s to protect the waters of Matlacha Pass from fresh water runoff from Cape Coral,” Irwin said.

When the Ceitus barrier (North) was removed in 2008, Irwin became involved in having Cape Coral replace the barrier. The removal of Ceitus resulted in increased water flow into Matlacha Pass causing damage to oysters and sea grass beds as well as the mangroves that surround the barrier.

“Lee County conducted a number of ecological studies pertaining to the ecological damage that was occurring after the removal Ceitus Barrier,” Irwin said. “We concluded there was a massive discharge of pollutants and a lot of sediment into the estuary. It’s important to know that removal of the barrier in the south (Chiquita) will bring the same result as the removal of the Ceitus Barrier.”

“People have to recognize the value of these natural systems,” Irwin said. “There is a ‘pocket-book’ value to these systems and we’re talking about billions of dollars.”

Hannon offered recent pictures of the deterioration of the mangroves around the Ceitus Barrier.

“A couple of weeks ago I took pictures at the south spreader and the mangroves are gorgeous,” Hannon said. “I went all the way to the top and the houses there are worth well over a million dollars. In contrast the mangroves at the north spreader (Ceitus was removed 11 years ago), it’s a wasteland and heartbreaking.”

Matlacha Civic Association meetings are held the second Wednesday of the month at 6 p.m. at the Matlacha Park Arts building.