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Replace, don’t remove, Chiquita Lock

By Staff | Mar 16, 2023

To the editor:

The City of Cape Coral again hopes to remove the Chiquita Boat Lock on the South Spreader Waterway. The Matlacha Civic Association, supported by many organizations and individuals, successfully defeated the first effort to remove the lock in 2019-20. In that proceeding, a Florida Administrative Law Judge concluded that removal of the lock would damage the mangroves and further impair the waters of the Matlacha Pass. The new effort to remove the Chiquita Lock is based on promises by Cape Coral to start several new projects to improve the quality of water that flows into the South Spreader. Cape Coral also boasts that it has engaged in numerous projects which have also improved our waterways. Tell that to the Islanders.

Cape Coral’s proposal not only will not improve our waters, but also will violate a Consent Order binding on the city. In the 1970s, the predecessor to the Department of Environmental Protection halted the digging of canals in the mangrove wetlands along the Matlacha Pass Aquatic Preserve by developers of Cape Coral. The outcome of that enforcement action was the largest fine ever levied for environmental crimes, the bankruptcy of the developer, the deeding of precious mangrove wetlands to the State of Florida, and the creation of a water detention system for the canals designed to ameliorate further eco-damage.

The enforcement action was resolved by the entry of Consent Order No. 15 on April 19, 1977, to govern the operation of the canal system thereafter. The goal of Consent Order No. 15 is “to restrict destruction of the mangroves and to provide additional control and treatment of stormwater discharges” and “to be a freshwater system designed to retain and treat the stormwater runoff and then to provide uniform discharge of the stormwater into the adjacent mangrove.” The Consent Order requires the maintenance of both the Chiquita Boat Lock and the Ceitus Boat Lift Barrier on the south end of the North Spreader Waterway. Cape Coral has refused to maintain both spreader waterways as required by the Consent Order.

Cape Coral removed the Ceitus Boat Lift Barrier many years ago. As a result, Matlacha Pass is polluted and the mangroves along the North Spreader are dying. Evidence of the damage to the mangroves on the north presented at the 2019 hearing was dramatic.

Cape Coral should stop spending its taxpayers’ money on bogus promises to clean up the water, and use the money to build high-speed locks at both the Chiquita and the Ceitus. Then implement best practices to maintain those waterways. Cape Coral again will find itself spending more money when a petition is filed to defeat this second effort to remove the Chiquita Lock.

Michael Hannon