Notes from the June 4th City Council Meeting in Regards to Water Quality issues:

D&D Boat Ramp Conceptual Site

The council heard and approved a measure seeking grant money for renovating the boat ramp known as the D&D site near Matlacha. This is a precursor to further discussion and agenda items regarding the controversial development of these parcels.

There are two alternative proposals, both of which eliminate a fair amount of existing mangroves and bottom to improve the ramp and its approach. Both concepts would rework the ramp, parking lot and replace the tackle shop entirely in addition to establishing a small basin. Option 1A, would also completely remove a small island to the northwest in an effort to improve navigation.

Expect to hear more on this in the coming months.

Bimini Basin Water Quality

Discussion on water quality began promptly during the public comment period of the council meeting. Many citizens spoke on the issue. Mayor Joe Coviello called on Paul Clinghan, Public Works Director, to report on issues in Bimini Basin. Clinghan stated that after detecting the high levels of enterococcus in Bimini Basin in April, the City Manager asked the Public Works department to look at water quality in the area.

Bimini Basin culvertsUtilities Director Jeff Pearson said they are sampling every two weeks. He also reported the CC Police Department has since “removed” derelict boats from the basin.

The Utilities Department determined that the 60″ wide culvert between the Rubicon canal and Bimini Basin is full of sediment. This is restricting the flow of water from the Rubicon in and out of the north side of the Basin. This culvert runs perpendicular beneath Cape Coral Parkway and SE 47th Terrace, lying directly under SE 15th Place.

In the May city council meeting, a resolution was passed to budget $114,000 for a contractor to clear this Rubicon culvert. Pearson then stated the 24″ culvert beneath Coronado Parkway will be cleaned by the City’s Public Works. It is their hope to eliminate any human sources of fecal contamination and continue testing every 2 weeks.

This information of blocked culverts runs contrary to comments Coviello made at the May 1st public information session.

Animals to Blame?

Maya Robert, Environmental Resources Manager, said they have upped the nearby monitoring stations from three to nine. They will continue to test every two weeks with the testing performed by a private lab. They have reached out to Universities on the possibility of determining the source of fecal contaminants. Officials decided to focus on restoring the “environmental flow” before proceeding with source tracing.

Jeff Pearson of Public Works cited  Billy’s Creek in Fort Myers and that an enterococci DNA study pointed to birds, dogs and non-human sources for that contamination. Pearson said, “dog excrement is four times more likely to cause high enterococci levels.” He added, “all lift stations and sewer lines in the area have checked out as all-clear with no anomalies found.” He mentioned it is a very large drainage basin with the possibility of dog, bird and other animal waste being washed in.

Public Works plans to continue testing and perhaps start outreach on the importance of cleaning up after pets. Pearson cited the water quality issue appears to be, “a non-point source, and we will pursue the most cost effective solutions that get the most bang for our buck.”

Further Discussion

Councilman Dave Stokes questioned how the local water quality and enterococci levels compare to that of the water coming directly out of Lake Okeechobee.

City Manager John Szerlag responded that the most direct correlations for Bimini Basin are to that of the Caloosahatchee River. He said he has been working with City of Fort Myers officials for four years on water quality initiatives. He has been seeking an agreement to have Fort Myers’ southern waste management facility upgraded and stop the dumping of affluent into the Caloosahatchee.

Szerlag also hopes for the City of Cape Coral to buy treated waste water from Fort Myers. This is an effort to boost Cape Coral’s supply and surplus storage of irrigation water. “I’m hopeful to have an agreement in place shortly,” he said.

Mayor Coviello asked City Manager Szerlag to add the enterococci testing results  to the water quality informational update which now appears on the agendas of all City Council meetings.

Bimini Basin Mooring Field

The council established a hearing date of June 18, 2018 for Ordinance 41-18, which seeks to establish a mooring field for boats in the Bimini Basin. A ridiculous amount of information, compiled mostly by Stantec consultants, can be found in pages 493-598 of this council meeting agenda.

‘Murica

It should be noted that this meeting was dominated by an emotional discussion of bald eagle nests. City staff was seeking to lower requirements for contractors to have Bald Eagle Management Plans prior to construction activity. Many citizens spoke out against the measure, and a few council members waxed patriotic. Ultimately, the council voted against amending the definitions, keeping stronger protections in-tact.

To their credit, the 2018 council seems capable of making tough decisions that hopefully benefit Cape Coral’s unique environmental resources.