Cape’s Waterway Advisory Board needs more authority, autonomy
To the editor:
The life blood of Cape Coral is its water ways and they are dying a death of a thousand cuts. The issues affecting our waterways are so numerous and far reaching as to be difficult to resolve in a timely and effective manner.
Charged with this task is the Waterway Advisory Board (WAB), which was created by the City Council in December, 2020. Pursuant to the enabling ordinance the WAB is advisory only and meets every other month. The Board consists of seven individuals and two alternates, all of whom are concerned enough with our waterways to go through the selection process, study issues with voluminous documentation and attend board meetings.
Between an issue being presented to the WAB for consideration, submission to staff for review and analysis, return to the WAB at their next meeting two months later for a decision and final submission to the City Council, the time delays can be substantial.
During a recent meeting of the WAB various reasonable and doable suggestions were made that would improve Cape Coral’s waterways.
However, between the City Councilman liaison to the WAB and City staff, it appeared that the Board was discouraged from taking on all but the most limited of the suggestions, apparently due to a lack of time that could be dedicated by staff or the Council. For this reason and to reduce the delays set forth above the City Council should implement the following:
– The Waterway Advisory Board should meet once a month and be renamed to denote more than an advisory capacity;
– It should be given limited decision-making authority and a working budget. (For example, it is generally accepted that the 2009 Canal Owner’s Handbook is outdated and needs to be revised. The WAB should be able to have staff develop a revised Manual, the budget therefor, and present same to the Board for approval. If approved, as presented, the Board, itself, should be able to direct publication and distribution of the revised Manual.);
– The WAB should be able to hold public study sessions and call for special meetings as needed;
– The waterways should be made a department within the City, or, at the very least, a division under Public Works;
– A new position of department or division head should be created to facilitate, support, and implement the decisions of WAB, as well as coordinating with the City Council and other department heads;
Obviously, any matters of general policy or law would remain with the City Council, but the creation and dissemination informational booklets or signage at a boat ramp does not need to go through submission to the City Council. If the City Council thought it absolutely necessary to maintain oversight, decisions of the WAB could simply be placed on the consent agenda.
With the accelerated growth of population and building, so too are the issues impacting our waterways. The residents of Cape Coral need an empowered Waterway Board.