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Calusa Waterkeeper addresses Civic

December 12, 2018
By ED FRANKS ( , Pine Island Eagle

The Greater Pine Island Civic Association held its general membership meeting last Tuesday night. The main topic was a brief report on the status of the removal of the Chiquita Boat lock by the city of Cape Coral by John Cassani, a Calusa Waterkeeper.

Calusa Waterkeeper Inc. is a non-profit organization dedicated to the protection of the waters from Lake Okeechobee south to the Caloosa-hatchee River & Es-tuary, Charlotte Harbor and Estero Bay and to educate the public about responsible use and enjoyment.

Last month the Florida Department of Environmental Protection issued a Notice of Intent to issue a permit for the city of Cape Coral to remove the Chiquita Lock in the South Spreader.

Article Photos

John Cassani


The Chiquita Lock is the only water control structure left in Cape Coral.The Ceitus Boatlift, located on the north spreader, was damaged in Hurricane Charley and never repaired by the Cape.

"As many of you know, Mike Hannon and the Matlacha Civic Association are challenging the removal of the lock and they have asked for and received an extension to file until Dec. 14," Cassani said.

Cape Coral's attorneys argued that the eight petitioners lacked standing in the case and the group had ample opportunity to express concerns. Chadwick R. Stevens, FDEP deputy general counsel, granted the group an extension until Dec. 14 to file its request for an administrative proceeding.

The Calusa Waterkeeper filed several comments during the commenting period and thought the case was pretty good. Technically the state can't issue a permit unless the nitrogen has improved. Cape Coral says they've mitigated the nitrogen levels to where the locks are no longer necessary.

"The Calusa Waterkeeper simply can't afford litigation with the Chiquita Lock," Cassani said. "But I have told the petitioners that I am willing to work with them on it.

"On a positive note, the Cape Coral City Council that voted to take the lock out are mostly gone," Cassani said. "There's a whole new council there and several are on our side in a big way. There are seven council members plus the mayor so all we need is four council members and I think we may have two or three already."

GPICA Board Member Nancy Harwood raised the question of how the criteria are measured.

"This is supposed to be an objective decision," Harwood said, "with measurable numbers related to nitrogen, etc. What's wrong with these measurable standards?"

"We have some of the best regulations in the country," Cassani said. "We have some pretty good standards but they're interpreted in a way that's not progressive. They're interpreted through assumptions that are influenced by politics and therein lies the problem. So this is why we have to go to court."

In additional business, GPICA announced that Conservation 20/20 has authorized the purchase of two parcels of property on Pine Island to become preserves within the 20/20 program.

Conservation 20/20 is an environmentally-sensitive land acquisition and stewardship program in Lee County. The program purchases land for preservation.

The first property is a 58-acre parcel adjacent to Buttonwood Preserve in St. James City. The second is a 93-acre property near Pine Island Commercial Marina at the end of Maria Drive.

The Calusa Land Trust has pledged $5,000 for each of the two parcels and the GPICA has pledged $250 towards each acquisition.

In additional business, there is a Lee County Mosquito Control meeting Dec. 14 at 15191 Homestead Road, Lehigh Acres, at 10 a.m. The board will vote whether to purchase Woodstock airstrip.

Board members present for the meeting included Shari Perkins, Gabriele Soltera, John Saccucci, Roger Wood, Claudia Bringe, Scott Wilkinson, Anna Stober, Tim Heitz and Nadine Slimak.



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