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MCA, residents file challenge to Chiquita Lock removal

Hearing expected after first of the year

December 19, 2018
Special to The Eagle ( , Pine Island Eagle

The Matlacha Civic Association and seven individuals from Cape Coral, Matlacha and Pine Island filed a challenge last week to the City of Cape Coral's request to remove the Chiquita Boat Lock.

The petition filed with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection requests a hearing to show that removal of the Chiquita Lock is unlawful and will cause environmental damage to the waters of the Caloosa-hatchee River and Matlacha Estuary.

The petition says that Cape Coral and the Florida DEP must comply with the original plans for the Cape Coral canal system approved by DEP in 1977. In the '70s, DEP halted canal digging by Gulf American Corporation because the prolific dredging threatened major degradation of the water.

The petition 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."

Under the warranty deed, the state of Florida took title from GAC of the mangrove wetlands lying west of the north and south spreader canals of Cape Coral. The petition states that Cape Coral and DEP are required to maintain the detention systems originally constructed, including the Chiquita Lock.

The petition quotes a scholarly paper written by the original engineers of the Cape Coral canal system, Gerald Ward and Charles King, describing the purpose of the canals: "Matlacha Pass and Charlotte Harbor are shallow water ecosystems which would be significantly damaged if upland runoff was allowed to flow directly into the estuarine areas via excavated channels."

Cape Coral has requested permission to remove the Chiquita Lock because on weekends, boaters experience 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."

Hannon said he expects a hearing to be scheduled for early next year.



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