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Group files petition to stop removal of Chiquita Lock

December 27, 2018
By ED FRANKS ( , Pine Island Eagle

The Matlacha Civic Association and seven individuals from Cape Coral, Matlacha and Pine Island have filed a petition with Florida Department of Environmental Protection to stop Cape Coral from removing the Chiquita Boat Lock.

In early November, FDEP issued a Notice of Intent to issue a permit for the city of Cape Coral to remove the Chiquita Lock in the South Spreader. Parties "whose substantial interests are affected" were given an extension until Dec. 14, 2018, to file a request for a hearing to challenge the removal.

The petition filed with the DEP requests a hearing to show that removal of the Chiquita Lock is unlawful and will cause environmental damage to the waters of the Caloosahatchee River and Matlacha Estuary.

In the 1970s, the DEP stopped Gulf American Corporation, the land development company and builders of Cape Coral, from removing mangroves to dig canals. Cape Coral boasts the city has over 400 miles of canals.

The petition filed Friday states that "GAC and the DEP entered into a Consent Order and executed a Warranty Deed in 1977, both of which required GAC to construct a water retention system consisting of a 'spreader waterway to serve as a water distribution system for intercepting and releasing discharges of waters from certain areas of the Cape Coral development' in order to buffer, treat, and improve water quality before it reaches the Matlacha Pass and the Caloosahatchee River."

The Ceitus Barrier (north barrier) and the Chiquita Boat Lock (South Spreader) were both installed to control runoff from Cape Coral canals into Matlacha Pass and the Caloosahatchee River.

Cape Coral removed the Ceitus Barrier in 2008 under an agreement that it would be restored with a lock to accommodate boaters. The Ceitus boat lift has never been reinstalled.

Under the 1977 Warranty Deed, the State of Florida took title from GAC of the mangrove wetlands lying west of the north and south spreaders of Cape Coral. The petition states that Cape Coral and FDEP are required to maintain the detention systems originally constructed, including the Chiquita Lock.

Cape Coral has requested permission to remove the Chiquita Lock at least in part because Cape Coral boaters have experienced delays getting through the lock.

The petition argues that the risk of damage to the environment far outweighs the inconvenience to boaters. In addition, the petition states that Cape Coral should install a new high speed boat lock, such as the one already commissioned for design by Cape Coral in 2003.

J. Michael Hannon, one of the petitioners and a resident of Matlacha, said "maintaining the lock and building a high speed lock on the north spreader canal will not only protect the environment, but also remedy falling seawalls, low canal levels, and the cost of buying water from the north."

There are 8 petitioners: Hannon, Matlacha Civic Association Inc., Karl R. Deigert, Yolanda Olsen, Robert S. Zarranz, Debra Hall, Melanie Hoff and Jessica Blanks.

Hannon expects the hearing to be scheduled for early next year.



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