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Cape working to resolve FDEP issues

By Staff | Aug 29, 2019

The city of Cape Coral is working to remedy a situation that resulted in a Florida Department of Environmental Protection citation for poor environmental practices following a complaint inspection on a Cape canal in early August.

“The City has met with FDEP through multiple telephone calls as the City continues to address the issues identified by FDEP,” said city spokesperson, Maureen Buice, in an email.

The city’s work in Coral Pointe Canal came under scrutiny from the FDEP. The city said the maintenance effort was done to remove invasive plants from the aforementioned canal – including mangroves, which are protected by the FDEP.

The letter to the city states that “violations of Florida Statues or administrative rules may result in liability for damages and restoration, and the judicial imposition of civil penalties.”

Cape Coral Public Works Department Director Paul Clinghan, along with Senior Public Works Manager Michael Ilczyszyn and Public Works Maintenance Manager Gary Gasperini, sent a letter to City Manager John Szerlag on Aug. 27 detailing the city’s work and what the next steps are to be taken.

“The nearby Little Canal was recently trimmed under a DEP mangrove trimming permit by hand from a barge. However, with the extensive overgrowth along the Coral Pointe Canal, hand trimming would have been extremely labor intensive and long in duration. As such, a determination by staff was made to clean the canal bank of exotics using mechanical means. The existing shoreline vegetation was extensively covered with exotic vegetation, with minimal mangroves intertwined,” the letter stated.

Once FDEP visited the site, the agency put a stop work order on the canal maintenance and requested a restoration plan to be submitted by the city for review before any work is to resume.

“Best management practices (BMPs) were deployed during the clearing activities perpendicular to the canal system,” the letter to Szerlag continued. “Upon inspection, DEP requested the BMPs be installed parallel to the shoreline. This adjustment was completed within one week of notification. No active erosion is occurring and through the years of this activity the City has never observed any collapse of soil into a canal after review invasive exotic vegetation. Ongoing communication continues with the DEP and it is possible the South Florida Water Management District may absorb this item due to previous wetland determinations on the site.”

The property owners, Ripple Lake LLC. out of Naples, also received the letter. The property manager granted the city access to the canal banks through its site.

In the letter, FDEP stated that its personnel noted the following during the Aug. 2 inspection:

* Unauthorized dredge and fill impacts to wetlands

* Unauthorized mangrove alteration

* Failure to install and utilize appropriate Best Management Practices during in-water construction

* Failure to obtain coverage under a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Construction Generic Permit for construction activities that disturb one or more acres of land.

Preliminary site plans have been submitted to the area of the canal on which the city was performing. The city said its work was not connected to the proposed development of the area, submitted by D.R. Horton.

“The canal maintenance work that was performed by the City was not related to future plans for the privately-owned property,” said Buice. “A representative of the property owner (Ripple Lake LLC.) submitted preliminary site plans which is related to the property owners plans for development of the property. The property owner also applied for city permits on (July 23) and (July 24) to drill geotechnical borings on the property.”

Preliminary site plans show the plotting of nearly 200 homesites, including more than three dozen along the canal.

City officials said nothing has been approved, and that a public hearing would be required as the preliminary site plan/concept plan does not fit the current zoning of the property.

-Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj