Council decides to repair boat lock with an eye for future replacement
The lock was originally constructed in the late 1970's.
Cape Coral’s city council has decided that repairing the Chiquita Boat Lock is their best option for now.
At last week’s city council meeting, city staff presented the council with three options regarding the future of the boat lock; installing a new parallel lock, repair the lock, or remove the lock all together.
After last week's meeting, it seemed the council had determined that installing a parallel lock or replacing the lock were the two options they wanted to explore. However, at this week’s meeting city staff made the recommendation, again, of repairing the current lock, as well as having tests done regarding the water quality conditions in the areas surrounding the lock. The tests would determine if the water quality conditions meet the requirements of the Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection to remove the lock.
The estimated cost for repairing the lock is expected to be near $200,000. The cost for engineer testing done on the waterways is $50,000. While the cost of a quarter of a million dollars seems high, it may not cost the city a dime to have the repairs and testing done.
CLICK HERE to view complete voting record from Monday night's city council meeting
City Manager John Szerlag explained to the council that, after research, the city found an estimated $800,000. The city found the money in a trust fund from original Cape Coral developers Great American Corporation. Szerlag recommended the city apply for $250,000 from the fund to cover the costs of the repairs and testing.
The idea of repairing the lock and it costing the city nothing excited some on the council, “This is an excellent short term solution and an ideal way to spend the money set aside by GAC,” said council member Kevin McGrail.
However, while getting the $200,000 from the fund should not be a problem for the city, getting the $50,000 for the study may be a different story, “Obtaining funds from the GAC Trust for the $50,000 is not a given,” explained Cape Coral’s Public Works Director Steve Neff.
The Florida DEP, which oversees the trust, may be willing to provide funds from the trust to be used for repairs. Using the funds for a study trying to validate the lack of environmental need for the lock is less likely to occur.
The fact the city is entertaining spending more money on studies to determine if the area needs the lock did not sit well with some on the council, “I will not approve any money until the city receives parameters from the DEP,” said council member John Carioscia.
Carioscia went on to explain that before any money be spent, the city should receive a list of requirements on what the city needed to accomplish in order to have the lock removed.
Elizabeth Gillam from the Florida DEP was in attendance at the meeting and explained that handing the city a list seemed a simple request, unfortunately, the process is a much more complicated process, “It is not that clear cut. I wish there was a list we could just hand you. Unfortunately, it is not that easy.”
Gillam went on to explain that other citizens in the state have input on the decision whether or not to remove the lock. She said getting all of the stakeholders involved in the process is the only way to make removing the lock happen.
Council Member Lenny Nesta also expressed concerns that, without a clear cut direction from the DEP, the idea of spending taxpayers money on the studies was an issue, “It seems we are full of maybes. I will not support spending money from the general fund for maybes.”
In an effort to gain approval from the council for the study, city manager Szerlag assured the city council that if the money could not be obtained from the fund, it would go back to the drawing board, “If we cannot get the money from the GAC trust fund, then we will come back and say we cannot currently afford the study.”
If the city decided after seeing the results of the study that it wants to remove the lock, not only will the approval of the stakeholders, be required, it will also need the approval of the DEP and the Army Corp. of Engineers. As seen by the removal of the Ceitus Barrier in the North Cape Spreader Canal, removing a barrier in the city’s canal system is at the very least an intense and involved process.