Pipeline project gets under way
The Caloosahatchee Connect project, which will link the cities of Cape Coral and Fort Myers with a reclaimed water main to be built underneath the Caloosahatchee is expected to give Cape residents more access to water for irrigation as well as improve water quality in the river.
The project has been years in planning and residents on both sides of the river hailed the $15 million project — to be funded primarly with grant money — when announced in September of 2018.
Now that its start is nearing, though, not everyone is happy.
Residents who live in the Everest Parkway neighborhood and nearby fear what they say will be disruption during the expected six to eight months of construction.
The uplands portion of the reclaimed water main is being designed along the north side of Everest Parkway. It will be installed in the public right-of-way between the northern asphalt edge of Everest Parkway and the right-of-way line before going to the Everest Water Reclamation Facility.
Temporary detours, road closures and one-way traffic should be anticipated along Everest Parkway throughout construction.
Horton Park also will see partial closures in the south end during that time, though most amenities will remain open, with minimal inconvenience, according to Bill Sperry, an engineer with the city of Cape Coral and project manager of Caloosahatchee Connect.
Among those concerned, though, is Charlie Meyer, who contends the project will affect many who use Everest Parkway as a main thoroughfare. He also says that, as planned, it will be unnecessarily expensive.
“It’s going to be such a major disruption, plus the inability for the city to finish the North 2 Utility Expansion Project in a timely manner,” Meyer said. “There are more than 540 homes that will be affected. We don’t trust them.”
There is a more cost-effective way to bring the water to the reclamation facility, a process similar to what they do in Denmark and Scandinavia, Meyer maintains.
“We have Veterans Parkway sitting right there with a berm on each side. Why don’t they run the pipes along the edge of Everest canal and there will be no disruption,” Meyer said. “There’s a berm where they can put an above-ground pipe and disguise it by cradling it. It would cost next to nothing.”
Sperry said that was considered, but eliminated that option from consideration because that area is a Lee County DOT right-of-way. If the road were ever to be modified or widened, the reclaimed water pipe would have to be relocated at the city’s expense.
Also, an alignment along the north side of the Everest Canal does not leave sufficient space for drilling underneath the canal to connect into the facility. Lastly, there is a risk associated with installing pipe and valves above ground, including vandalism and damage from vehicles.
“We looked at all options and it came down to that the best option and least expensive is to run it along the north side of Everest Parkway,” Sperry said. “We looked at the north side of Veterans Parkway, but we had flatlands and crossing issues to get back to the south side. Lee County wouldn’t allow that and I don’t blame them.”
When complete, this 7,600-foot reclaimed water transmission main will be the largest and longest subaqueous horizontal directional drilling project using fusible polyvinyl chloride pipe in the country.
In September 2018, after six years of work, Cape Coral and Fort Myers entered into an interlocal agreement to construct a pipeline across the Caloosahatchee River to send reclaimed water from Fort Myers to Cape Coral.
The reclaimed water transmission main will reduce nutrient discharges to the river while providing more reclaimed water to Cape Coral during the dry season, which will help to maintain freshwater canal levels. This water will be used to irrigate lawns and for fire protection.
The project would mitigate the discharge of 6 to 11 million gallons of treated wastewater into the Caloosahatchee every day and reduce the amount of nutrients into the water by 100,000 pounds.
The project is expected to cost around $15 million, with a good chunk of it paid for through grants, Sperry said. One state grant alone will bring in $3 million, while another was awarded for $790,135. A companion grant will send $1.5 million to Fort Myers.
The initial rate Cape Coral will pay is 95 cents per 1,000 gallons of water for irrigation purposes. The rate carries a cost of living adjustment of 75 percent of the consumer price index or 3 percent, whichever is less.
Construction of the uplands portion of the pipeline on the north side of Everest Parkway from the Everest Water Reclamation Facility to Horton Park is expected to begin in spring 2021 and anticipated to be completed in fall 2021.
Construction of the HDD portion of the pipeline from Horton Park across the Caloosahatchee River to a connection point in Fort Myers is anticipated to begin in fall 2021, depending on permitting. The HDD portion of the project is anticipated to be complete and operational by December 2022.
This week, drilling crews will collect soil samples in approximately 10 locations in the Caloosahatchee River near Midpoint Bridge to obtain data about the river bottom.
To learn more about the Caloosahatchee Connect project, visit the website at www.CaloosahatcheeConnect.com. If you have questions or concerns about the project, please contact the Public Information Consultant for the project at 337-1071.