‘Two cities working together’
In September 2018, after six years of back-and-forth, on-again-off-again negotiations that also involved the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the cities of Cape Coral and Fort Myers reached a 30-year water pact hailed by both sides.
Randy Henderson, then mayor of Fort Myers, called the agreement a milestone.
Joe Coviello, then mayor of Cape Coral, called the deal a win/win for both cities.
And clean water advocates on both sides of the river that runs between the communities said it was about time that a way had been found to reduce wastewater discharges into the Caloosahatchee while also providing for its reuse.
The project now called Caloosahatchee Connects calls for a pipeline between the two cities that will do two things. One, it will allow the city of Fort Myers to meet a state mandate that requires the municipality to reduce its discharges into the river by January 2023. Two, it will provide the Cape with additional water suitable for irrigation and to help maintain levels in the city’s freshwater canals.
The multimillion dollar project will send up to 12 million gallons of “reclaimed water” — highly treated, odorless and colorless wastewater — from the city of Fort Myers to Cape Coral via a 7,600-foot transmission main that will be the largest and longest of its type in the country.
To receive the water, Cape Coral will install a 22-inch pipeline from its Everest Water Reclamation Facility to the river at Horton Park.
The pipeline will run under the river to San Marcos Avenue south of the Midpoint Bridge on the Fort Myers side, and then to the city’s South Advanced Wastewater Treatment Facility.
Officials say the construction will employ the use of horizontal directional drilling, allowing the 30-inch pipeline to be installed without any disturbance to the river bottom or harm to the environment.
The project, when completed, will cost the city of Fort Myers $62 million and will include upgrades to its wastewater plant so it can produce the reclaimed water it will now sell to the city of Cape Coral as well as the pump station needed to deliver it. Fort Myers expects to receive an initial $1.2 million to $2.4 million per year for the water it sells to the Cape. The city has thus far received a $1.5 million grant from FDEP to offset its portion of the costs.
Officials have said they expect there will be no additional cost to utility ratepayers.
In Cape Coral, the cost will be between $20 million and $25 million, with about $10 million to be paid for by grants from public agencies.
If things progress as expected, the project will be completed by Jan. 15, 2023.
The city of Fort Myers held a preconstruction public information session on the joint pipeline project this week which included a comprehensive PowerPoint that provides all of the details, including maps on impacted neighborhoods on both side of the river.
The presentation, and much more information including FAQs, newsletters, and explanations on the construction process, may be found at caloosahatcheeconnect.com.
We recommend the PowerPoint video as a must-view. It’s worth checking out the other information on the project website as well.
We were among those who heralded the announcement of the project back in 2018.
It has our continued support for the same reasons:
Watershed nutrients — local watershed nutrients — have been among the issues of concern expressed by regional scientists and water quality experts who blame more than Lake Okeechobee for Southwest Florida’s water quality woes.
Reuse, and a higher standard of treatment for Fort Myers’ effluent, is certainly to be preferred over discharges, even if the water going into the river “meets standards.”
This interlocal agreement may have taken more time than either side wanted but we agree, it is win-win and win — for residents on both sides of the bridge as well as for our Gulf, bays and local waterways.
It also is good to see, as the project’s promo states, “Two Cities Working Together” for the betterment of both.
— Breeze editorial