Each week through the general election, The Breeze will ask the candidates for Cape Coral City Council an issue-related question. In the interest of fairness, each candidate is limited to the same amount of space, about 100 words, for their response. This week's question is: An environmental coalition has put the city on 60-day notice of an impending lawsuit to require the installation of a replacement barrier in the North Spreader canal. What is your position on re-installation of the Ceitus barrier/boatlift and how should the city address the legal challenge?
MARNI LIN SAWICKI
As a candidate, I will not take a position on a pending lawsuit but will defer to the City Attorney to decide a course of action. I do not support replacing the North Spreader barrier. The barrier was removed due to its ineffectiveness and was negatively impacting the ecological balance. There are two differing opinions by reputable scientists as to the effectiveness of the barrier. Without evidence that replacing the barrier will improve or worsen the ecological balance, the City should continue to develop and implement sound environmental practices as projects get under way.
JOHN J. SULLIVAN (incumbent)
The barrier should not be installed. There is no scientific evidence that indicates that installing the barrier will be of any help to the environment; in fact, all evidence indicates that the environment would be damaged if it were reinstalled.
The city should not fear the threat of a lawsuit because the suit is being brought forward by people that have no legal standing. Their opportunity came and past many months ago. I believe the judge will throw out the case.
JAMES (JIM) BURCH
Frankly, pooling our resources to convince the sources of the nitrogen loads to share the burden of remediation would be wiser. I believe that drastic measures are necessary as our water is our environmental and economic lifeline. If our State legislators will address State issues instead of Federal issues and our Federal legislators will act like adults and push the pending bill through the Senate that has languished for years, we may help resolve the burdens that the nitrogen loads create from Lake "O" and through U.S. Sugar and agricultural lands. There are plans to divert sheet flow through the Charlotte Flatwoods, south through the Everglades through a filter marsh system and the proposed raised bridge under U.S. 41 as well as the C-43 reservoir and other holding basin areas, but many years and 100's of million dollars are required so those projects are the long term solution. This is the most serious problem our region faces and we must band together for a regional solution.
DAVID R. HEADD
There is a good deal of information and misinformation surrounding the Ceitus barrier and perhaps a lawsuit will separate fact from fiction. We have heard about the silting of the pass, interruption of the migratory patterns of fish and quality of water both good and bad. I have traversed the passage over the years and the channel was skinny 20 years ago. To the best of my knowledge, it has never been dredged and is still passable, so without further facts that position doesn't seem to hold water. The interruption of the migratory patterns of fish is pretty much a given. The real crux of the argument is water quality. I understand there have been more than one set of tests on the water quality. With these results, we should be able to determine what if any actions are necessary. With more space we could discuss denials by Corp of Engineers and Florida Dept. of Environmental Protection to reinstall the barrier.
CHRIS N. CHULAKES-LEETZ (incumbent)
My position on this issue is and has been for many years the acceptance of natural events provided by Mother Nature and our Geographical location. The watershed flow from Charlotte County and Lee County provide billions of gallons of water flowing from the north and northeast towards the south and southwest. The water exiting from Cape Coral is water directed through natural and manmade flow ways. This issue is a Southwest Florida concern. It must be addressed. Just as the Lake O discharges are affecting our entire region, both issues should be be addressed regionally. I will not support any action making Cape Coral the whipping boy for what was created regionally and must be solved regionally. I would vote No to any barrier until science proves differently.
Scientific data shows that replacing the barrier will have little to no positive impact on the ecosystem in the area. In fact, replacing it may cause more harm than good. The previous barrier was not successful and the water destroyed a large portion of mangroves around the structure.
The State of Florida has the final say in whether or not the barrier is replaced and will most likely be leading the defense in the case. As a city we must ensure staff is working closely with state officials in providing all the data and research. It is of my opinion that data confirms the replacing of the barrier is just another disaster waiting to occur and I am not in favor of replacing the structure.
KEVIN M. McGRAIL (incumbent)
The proposed lawsuit being threatened by the coalition of environmental groups to replace the Ceitus boatlift barrier is warrantless and without merit. The statements made by the various contact people were spoken years ago at the NSEMA stakeholders meetings. The State of Florida Dept. of Environmental Protection (FDEP) weighed that information then and disagreed with their conclusions. THAT is why the City of Cape Coral's application to replace the boatlift was denied. The time period of appealing that ruling has passed by several years. A lawsuit at this time will only WASTE additional taxpayer money that is sorely needed elsewhere. Doesn't it seem ironic that as MILLIONS of gallons of polluted Lake Okeechobee water courses down the Caloosahatchee River, these groups are suing Cape Coral and FDEP about a boatlift removed 5 years ago?
Against. I was one of the 21 original stakeholders participating in the two-year Ecosystem Management Agreement to study the issues. Many highly-qualified engineers, scientists and environmental consultants participated in our extensive discussions. While most of the "environmental coalition" who attended meetings (many did NOT) agreed that the barrier was not the best environmental solution, everything fell apart at the end. In accordance with the consent agreement, Cape Coral applied for a permit to replace the barrier. The DEP denied the permit and specified more beneficial projects in lieu of barrier replacement-and we're moving forward on those projects. The coalition never had scientific evidence to support its position. Unfortunately, Cape Coral will have to defend this frivolous lawsuit, wasting more money that could have been spent on better environmental solutions. It would be more productive for the coalition to rejoin the effort toward real environmental solutions?
Voter registration, early voting
* Voter registration:
Applications are available
online at www.leeelections.com,
at all Lee County libraries, and other locations including Cape Coral City Hall at 1015 Cultural Park Blvd., Cape Coral Chamber of Commerce at 2051 Cape Coral Parkway, Department of Motor Vehicles offices, and all Lee County Supervisor of Elections offices including the one in the Cape at 1031 S.E. 9th Place,
Suite 3. A full list is available at www.leeelections.com.
* Early voting locations:
- Lee County Elections Cape Coral Branch Office 1031 S.E. 9th Place, Suite 3 (behind the Lee County Government Center).
- Lee County Elections Main Office at the Constitutional Complex in Fort Myers at 2480 Thompson St., third floor.
* City of Cape Coral General Election: Nov. 5
Voter Registration Book closes: Oct. 7
Early voting Oct. 28-31, Nov. 1-2.
Cape Coral City Council races are non-partisan,citywide elections meaning registered voters can cast a ballot in each race, no matter party affiliation, no matter the district in which they live.