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Chiquita boat lock removal creates controversy at Cape Coral meeting

Posted at 1:52 AM, Mar 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-19 10:51:32-04

CAPE CORAL, Fla. -- Strong opinions were said at a community meeting in Cape Coral Monday night over whether the Chiquita lock should stay or go.

The city wants to get rid of it after it got permission from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection but some people want the lock to stay.

The group, Matlacha Civic Association are pushing to keep the lock. They held a meeting at the pavilion at Cape Harbour Marina where residents expressed their differences on the lock.

“The lock serves no function other than have people backed up at the lock,” said Cape Coral resident, Nora Allison.

Allison has been living in Cape Coral for five years and she said the lock has always been an inconvenience. Allison said she’s waited as long as an hour and half to get her boat through the lock.

“It makes no sense to have it there,” Allison said.

Many agree with her but the president for the Matlacha Civic Association, Karl Deigert said removing the lock would cause pollution.

“Behind the barrier ,we have people fertilizing their yards, we have pet waste,” said Deigert. “By pulling the plug, it goes in and out to the estuaries twice a day.”

He said it would also hurt wildlife.

“Keeping that lock in place prevents the blue green algae cyanobacteria from entering the canal system,” Diegert said.

Even though many residents said algae has still entered the canal with the lock there.

“I’ve been here 17 years, I’ve watched the water for years and what happens,” said marina general manager, Frank Muto.

Muto said the lock is a good security measure.

“There’s never been a boat stolen from behind the lock, you have to go through a main lock to get it away from the dock,” Muto said.

He said removing it could create tidal flow.

“If we lose 3 and half feet of water back on the low tide, these 50 and 60 ft. boats are going to be sitting on their per pillars on the bottom,” said Muto.

However, some don’t believe that’s the case.

“The most we have is a 1 foot tidal movement here,” said Cape Coral resident, Ron Austin.

Austin said the lock is more than 40 years old which needs upkeep and can be expensive.

The lock’s original purpose was to treat storm water runoff, but Austin said it no longer serves that purpose.

The Matlacha Civic Association and Coalition of Cape Coral residents filed a lawsuit against the city and the state's DEP to prevent the removal of the boat lock.

They will have an administrative hearing sometime in April where a judge will hear from both sides and make the final call on whether the lock should stay or go.