The Fight to Save Chiquita Lock
The City of Cape Coral has requested permission to remove the Chiquita Lock — a move that many people believe will cause significant environmental damage and degradation to important mangrove habitats and waterways, including Matlacha Pass Aquatic Preserve, San Carlos Bay, and the waters of Sanibel, Captiva, and Pine islands. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has filed a notice of intent to issue the permit.
The Chiquita Lock and the South Spreader Waterway were constructed more than 30 years ago by early Cape developers to remedy a Clean Water Act enforcement action brought in 1977 by the predecessor of FDEP, the Florida Department of Environmental Regulation (“DER”). The Lock is a water detention barrier across the South Spreader Waterway in Cape Coral designed to separate the canal waters of the southern end of the City from U.S. navigable waters at the Caloosahatchee River. It serves the purpose of retaining water so that it can be filtered through the mangrove system before flowing into our estuaries. Without this water flow, the mangroves will also die, leading to less protection from future tropical storms and hurricanes.
For years, Cape Coral has been fighting to remove the lock so that boaters can gain quicker access to the Gulf. In 2018, the FLDEP issued a notice of intent to allow the removal of the lock. Then, after a legal challenge by MCA and others, that order was reversed in 2020.
Now, Cape Coral has developed a new request to remove the lock by adding in provisions that they say will mitigate any adverse environmental impacts.
A coalition has been formed to fight the Cape’s latest attempt to get a permit to remove the lock. The coalition, which includes the Matlacha Civic Association (MCA), the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation (SCCF), Calusa Waterkeeper and individuals Daniel Carney, James Collier, Kevin Sparks and Kathleen Walsh, filed a petition for an administrative hearing against the order to issue the lock’s removal.
- The petition was filed earlier this month. Read the full petition here.
The MCA had asked the GPICA to join as a named petitioner and to spend up to $12,500 to financially support the legal fight against the removal of the lock. MCA President Michael Hannon gave a presentation about this issue and the request during the April meeting.
- You can view Hannon’s presentation to the GPICA membership here, starting at about minute 40.
- The issue was also the focus of the May 17 meeting of the MCA. You can view their recording of the meeting on their Facebook page here.
The GPICA held a special Board meeting to consider the request and the Board voted to:
- Not join as a named petitioner, for fear that the organization could be responsible for Cape Coral attorneys’ fees should the suit fail.
- Request GPICA members to vote on a proposal to provide financial assistance for the suit.
During the May 2, 2023, meeting, GPICA Board Member Sue Dahod will provide an overview of the situation. Then the Members will be asked to vote on whether the GPICA should financially support the MCA request for funding. Per GPICA bylaws, membership must approve any expenditure over $1,000. Only Members in good standing — members for more than 30 days and current in their dues — may vote.
The GPICA will ask membership to approve:
- A $2,500 direct expenditure to support the suit;
- Allowance to provide up to an additional $5,000, based on matching donations provided by GPICA members. (GPICA would match each donation up to a total of $5,000.)
Additional Background and Information About the Chiquita Lock