At its regular monthly meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 15, the Matlacha Civic Association voted unanimously to pledge $5,000 in support of the coalition that is suing the city of Cape Coral and the Department of Environmental Protection for replacement of the Ceitus barrier in the North Cape Coral Spreader Canal. The full MCA board had previously voted to request that the general membership resolve the pledge.
During the meeting, Dr. Phil Buchanan, one of the plaintiffs presented an overview detailing the history of the Ceitus barrier, the ravaging effects that removal of the barrier in the aftermath of Hurricane Charley had on Matlacha's ecosystems, and the repeated attempts that had been made and thwarted to force replacement of the barrier. Unless and until the barrier is replaced, he stressed, the ongoing inrush of unfiltered fresh water from the North Spreader Canal will continue to wreak havoc on Matlacha's ecology and thus to a large extent on its fishing, oystering, clamming, kayaking and generally tourism-centered economy, over and above the quality of aquatic life the island community has always enjoyed. The effects were clear to see in the photographs he presented.
In urging the action, MCA president Michael Gibbons noted that although the pledge will eat up a large portion of the association's reserves, replacement of the barrier is of vital ecological and thus economic importance for the entire Matlacha Community.
"Our reserves are there to provide us with funding in times of need. And the need is now!" he said. "This matter is so vital to us all that there is simply no alternative to joining the fight to replace the Ceitus barrier."
At the end of the evening, former Lee County Commissioner Ray Judah outlined what he sees as the dismal situation regarding Lake Okeechobee releases, explaining that the planned retention reservoir would not be nearly enough to truly resolve the problem. He promised to speak at greater length about this issue at one of the upcoming MCA meetings, which are held at 6 p.m. on the third Tuesday of each month at the Old Matlacha Fire House.