To the editor:
On behalf of Matlacha Civic Association and its Pine Island and Cape Royal supporters, I wish to thank all donors and guests who made our Watercolors Gala a success: especially Blue Dog Grill, Bernard Johnson, Mike Miceli owner of El Pollo Rico, Hurricane Hideout, Sandy Hook Fish and Rib House, Island Seafood, and Olde Fish House Marina.
I also want to fill you in on our progress for clean water.
We raised over $21K at the gala. Our total fund is over $62K. We have plans to bridge the gap to our 2017 goal of $100K before October. Matlacha Civic Association board members met this week and pledged to renew the fundraising in the 2017-18 year. Our conclusion is that a surplus environmental fund is one way to defend our clean water and independence
On the MS4 (Cape Coral/Lee County federal storm water management permit renewal,) we filed a challenge which the FL DEP initially dismissed for being "late." This is ironic, as the FL DEP actively misled us as to the issue date of the permit. However, we may amend our petition. We recently found additional documents in which FL DEP was specifically asked to provide us with notice of the permit renewal. I am confident that we will get this before a Florida Administrative Judge for consideration.
This challenge would require Cape Coral and Lee County to implement effective storm water management systems to stop pollution into the Caloosahatchee and Matlacha estuaries. These systems would also retain water in the canal system so as to restore surface flow through the mangroves and wetlands. Incidentally, a proper storm water system would restore the water level of the canals to remediate the loss of water pressure to the Cape Coral fire hydrants.
Ralf Brookes also perfected our challenge to removal of the Ceitus Boat Lift Barrier with the FL DEP. FL DEP is well past the deadline to respond, and we will take them to court soon to require action on the petition. We also are challenging Cape Coral's effort to remove the Chiquita Boat Lock on the east side of its canal system.
Based on two recent studies of the North Spreader Canal and other evidence, our scientists believe that Cape Coral and Lee County are dead in the water (so to speak) on the storm water issue.
We are consulting with several environmental attorneys nationwide to assemble a team to bring additional claims, including a federal CWA claim. The discharge of pollutants has exceeded limitations, as evidenced by Matlacha estuary becoming an "impaired" waterway. The CWA is a strict liability statute, and a successful plaintiff can be awarded attorneys' fees against the polluters. The MCA lawsuit against Cape Coral in Lee County Circuit Court (challenging annexation and Cape Coral's development plans) is pending resolution of a motion to dismiss from Cape Coral. I consider this a delaying tactic, and expect a decision in our favor. Once that motion is denied, the annexation issue will be on a fast track for decision. The development claim is separate and will go to full blown discovery and a trial. In this part of the lawsuit, we allege that Cape Coral is acting beyond its constitutional authority by purchasing and developing land in and around the city.
We also plan to ask Congressman Frank Rooney to host a Summit on the Caloosahatchee and Matlacha Estuaries, to which all constituents and governmental bodies are invited. Face to face communication may move the ball forward.
Please thank the restaurateurs, business owners, and artists who donated to our Watercolors Gala.
Contributions to the Environmental Fund can be made on line at www.matlachacivicassociation.org or mailed to Matlacha Civic Association, PO Box 121, Matlacha, FL 33993. MCA is a 501(c)3), and your donation is tax deductible.
If you have a desire to help, please let me hear from you at PineIslandStrong@gmail.com.