Date: Thu, 23 Dec 2010
From: Phil Buchanan >
Subject: Fwd: Please support reconstruction of the Ceitus Barrier
Below is my comments on the application for reconstruction of the Ceitus Barrier. This is a very important issue for our Southwest Florida environment, and a critical environmental issue for Matlacha, Matlacha Pass, and Pine Island.
Every individual and organization in this area should seriously consider this issue and provide comments to the DEP at the address below. I invite everyone to take a drive down Shoreview Drive (in Matlacha just west of the Sun and Moon Bed and Breakfast) and view for themselves the incredible siltation that has filled that bay since the barrier was removed. Consider also the devastating impact all that siltation and pollution is having on our environment. Consider the marine die-off that has already occured and the future of our area wildlife, as well as water quality and health issues for humans. In your opinion, is all this necessary or worthwhile? Is all this justified just to gain a few more unrestricted-access waterfront houses in Cape Coral? Why is this thus far being allowed to occur?
Once you have formed an opinion, send it to the address below and cc me a copy at firstname.lastname@example.org. Insist also that any organizations to which you belong do the same thing. This is the environmental issue of the decade for our area--get involved or you may wish for the rest of your life that you had done so when you had the chance.
----- Forwarded Message -----
From: "Phil Buchanan"
To: "Jon Iglehart"
Sent: Thursday, December 23, 2010
Subject: Application for reconstruction of the Ceitus Barrier
To Jon Inglehart, South District Office, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, 295 Victoria Avenue, Suite 364, Fort Myers, FL 33901
After years of proceedings on the Ceitus Barrier issue, you already know my thoughts on the reconstruction permit application (File 36-0295854-002). But please indulge me in summarizing them one more time.
You already know that the science overwhelmingly supports granting the permit for reconstruction of the barrier. Nothing less than its reconstruction will alleviate the siltation, excess fresh water, and pollution flowing into Matlacha Pass. As you know, the removal of the barrier has temporarily turned what was a pollution treatment and excess fresh water â€œspreader systemâ€ into a pollution and excess fresh water â€œcollection systemâ€ with a singular point source discharge into the small Matlacha channel just north of Pine Island Road.
You also know that the immediate consequences of the barrier removal was a huge marine die-off in September 2008, and several years of greatly increased siltation into Matlacha. I witnessed and photographed and documented the huge marine die-off, and one of your biologists tested the waters and verified the obvious cause as excess fresh water (with zero readings on salinity and dissolved oxygen). The residents of Shoreline Drive in Matlacha have extensively documented the incredible siltation and environmental damage in that area since the barrier was removed.
Of course, the Cape Coral Government was successful in preventing any of the above information from being published in the report of the Ceitus Environmental Management Agreement (EMA) Committee, but you and I and the entire Southwest Florida environmental community are fully aware of all of that information. They Cape Government was also successful in preventing inclusion of the numerous Water Hyacinth Control District photographs of polluted and algae-choked North Cape canals, the water testing data supporting the DEP designations of the North Cape creeks as impaired water bodies, as well as hours of testimony by local citizens and experts on the condition of area waters and the causes of the pollution.
You of course also know about the results of your dye own testing, which showed historical flows through the wetlands to the west are currently improperly redirected to the opening created by the removal of the Barrier to the south.
All of the above information already exists in DEP files and is well known to all DEP personnel as well as the SWF environmental community. I am tempted to assemble all of that it again just so we have yet another copy in this permit application file, but I do not see that serving any real purpose. Incorporation by reference herein should suffice.
You of course are also aware that the best and the brightest of the SWF environmental community served on the Ceitus EMA Committee, and that of the 18 votes submitted, 14 voted to reconstruct the Ceitus Barrier. Not one single grass-roots environmental organization in SWF voted to support the Cape Government proposal to ignore the environmental damage caused by the removal of the Ceitus Barrier.
Reconstruction of the Ceitus Barrier is universally supported not only by SWF environmental organizations, but also all local governmental organizations (other than Cape Coral of course), as well as the federal government. Our state regulatory agencies are widely regarded as the weakest of the links in environmental protection in Florida, which places this case and the DEP action on this permit in the environmental limelight. For our local area, this is the environmental case of the decade-- and this is your opportunity to show that our state government can join with local and federal authorities in providing critical environmental protection.
I realize this permit application is difficult for you and your office. You publicly promised to support the Cape Government in whatever they decided on the Ceitus Barrier issue, and you promised hold-harmless DEP-led litigation to defend whatever they decided. That was an unfortunate promise not consistent with DEP responsibilities and procedures, and a promise to which you should not and cannot be held. You of course also promised the Ceitus EMA that DEP would enforce the decision of the Committee, which you described as legally binding on the DEP. You cannot do both. The truth--the bottom line--is that you and the DEP are bound to do what is right in enforcing the Clean Water Act and related laws in protecting and restoring our impaired waters—that is your sole mission and your singular duty.
Making your job all the more difficult is the obvious fact that the permit application is not being filed in good faith. This is an Environmental Resource Permit application that rejects environmental considerations as “not applicable,” leaves out critical information, even inserts nonessential elements designed to make the application harder to approve. Failure to file the application in good faith of course violates the Amended Consent Order. You and your staff are going to have to be aggressive in designing conditions for the permit approval without cooperation from the applicant—not an easy task.
Doing so, however, is very important because you and I and the entire SWF environmental community know that putting the Ceitus Barrier back will help restore historical water flows, quality, and quantity in our region. Failing to put the Barrier back would promote the short-term financial interests of Northwest Cape Coral waterfront owners and please the Cape Coral Government, but would greatly worsen the environment damage that started with the 1970's destruction of the Northwest Cape wetlands and greatly accelerated with the removal of the barrier. Environmental protection cannot be sacrificed for short-term profit.
This permit application is a critical juncture bell-weather contest between pro-growth at any cost bureaucratic politics as usual and protection of our aquatic environment, tourist-based economy, and quality of life. We are dependent on you to do the right thing—our future depends on it.
Thank you for all you do. If you chose to do the right thing, be assured that the people of Pine Island and Matlacha as well as our federal and county governments and all regional non-profit environmental organizations will stand behind you.
The DEP and all local environmental organizations and governments already have copies and have reviewed the following very extensive documentation supporting reconstruction of the Ceitus Barrier. Please contact me if that is not the case.
(1) The Ceitus Environmental Management Committee Report, October, 2010, is a whitewash approved only by the Cape Coral Government and rejected by other committee members. However, it does tellingly include an appendix with dissents issued by 14 of the 18 voting member stakeholders. Many of those dissents, including those issued by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation, and others are worthy scientific documents deserving of careful study. All 14 dissents support reconstruction of the Barrier, and many of them contain extensive supporting documentation.
(2) Google Earth, Lee County GIS Records, and both private air and land-based photography was assembled by the residents of Shoreview Drive in Matlacha to show the very dramatic siltation and environmental damage that immediately resulted from the removal of the Ceitus Barrier. Copies were widely distributed to DEP and other interested parties.
(3) The News-Press has published numerous articles documenting the sad condition of our local waters including Cape Coral canals. These have included numerous photographs of algae-choked Cape Coral canals that flow directly through the opening created by the removal of the Ceitus Barrier. For recent examples, see front page news articles “Infestations render Cape canals lifeless” August 26 2010, and “Many waters “impaired” and the fix won't be easy.” December 5, 2010.
(4) My photographs, exhibits of preserved dead marine life, and testimony regarding the marine die-off in Matlacha Pass following removal of the Ceitus Barrier was documented in the minutes of the Ceitus EMA proceedings, but omitted from the final report. Nonetheless, all participating stakeholders, included the DEP, were provided copies. The same is also true of voluminous EMA testimony by area environmentalists, hydrologists, biologists, geologists, limnologists, engineers, educators, fisher folk, public officials, and citizens regarding the need for restoration of the Ceitus Barrier.
(5) The Lee County Water Hyacinth Control District has a library of photographs of water bodies that they have treated for algae and related contamination. The photographs are notated with time and place, and a great many of them are located in the watershed that now dumps through the artificial l opening created by the removal of the Ceitus Barrier.
(6) DEP files also include copies of the maps provided by the Cape Coral Government that show 17,038 existing individual on-site septic systems (with plans for some 50,000 more) in North Cape Coral. Most of them line the canals and are located in the watershed that flows through the opening created by the removal of the Ceitus Barrier. According to national EPA statistics, one in five septic systems are in failure mode, but of course even correctly functioning septic systems leach into adjoining water bodies. With removal of the Ceitus Barrier, all those water bodies (originally designed for containment and treatment) are now directing their leachate and other pollutants through Matlacha into Matlacha Pass. Matlacha, which is served by a modern central wastewater treatment system, has become a functioning but unwilling component of the Cape Coral sewage system.
(7) DEP files include aerial photographs of the North Cape wetlands prior to their destruction by the Gulf American Corporation (the developer of Cape Coral) in the mid-1970's. The 1946 US Army photographs in particular vividly demonstrate the historical east to west tidal creek flow-ways that dominated those wetlands. With the Barrier in place, Mother Nature was reestablishing those historic flow-ways, and will again if the Barrier is reconstructed. Those flow-ways are critical to water distribution, quality, and timing of flows into Matlacha Pass. Without the Barrier, the former spreader system is just a south flowing river delivering point source pollution and excess fresh water to Matlacha Pass.
Dr Phillip G Buchanan