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GPICA addresses number of topics at meeting

May 9, 2018
By ED FRANKS ( , Pine Island Eagle

The Greater Pine Island Civic Association held its monthly meeting on Tuesday night chaired by board member Gabrielle Soltera, who oversaw the meeting due to the changes in GPICA leadership.

Topics covered included the Chiquita barrier status and Caloosahatchee pollution, bylaw revision status, arsenic in Flatwoods Preserve and the Matlacha Civic Association annexation lawsuit.

Board member Carol Crane explained that a sheriff's deputy was present at the GPICA meeting because of an "explosive outburst" from a Pine Island resident at the final Town Hall meeting last month.

"Therefore in the interest of the safety of all the attendees here tonight, the GPICA board hired a Lee County Sheriff's Deputy to be present," she said.

Crane addressed the city of Cape Coral's permit from Department of Environmental Protection seeking removal of the Chiquita Lock. The Chiquita lock is an integral part of the "spreader system" in the south Cape that cleans polluted water flowing from Cape Coral canals into the spreader system and into Matlacha Pass.

The city of Cape Coral seeks a permit from DEP to permanently remove the Chiquita lock, just as it removed the Ceitus boat lift 10 years ago, with serious impacts to the Matlacha Pass Aquatic Preserve.

According to Crane, the DEP has discovered it was not provided accurate sampling information regarding the removal. In all likelihood, the DEP will simply request new information.

"We're also working to get the DEP, the Army Corps of Engineers, Environmental Protection Agency and National Fisheries Service to take more action," Crane said. "There are a number of endangered species that need to be protected."

The board of directors of the Greater Pine Island Civic Association is in the process of revising its bylaws. The board would like islanders to review the bylaws on the website and send revisions and corrections via email to

"Be sure to include the article and section of the bylaws you would like changed and the board will review all of the comments received," Soltera said.

In early March 2018, Scott Wilkinson, GPICA board member, wrote a letter to the editor to The Eagle detailing effluent spraying on the Flatwoods Preserve that contained excessive levels of arsenic. At last month's GPICA meeting the association passed a two-part resolution.

First, Lee County Utilities should pay for all testing and cleanup of arsenic contamination at the wastewater effluent spray field on the Pine Island Flatwoods Preserve. Second, Lee County will completely discontinue using that spray field and will immediately commence dismantling it.

"GPICA felt compelled to pass this resolution because Lee County Utilities continues to deny and cover up its responsibility in spraying the arsenic that has contaminated our precious 20/20 conservation land in Flatwoods," Wilkinson said.

"We did get some good news," Wilkinson said. "Pamela Keys is the Lee County Public Utilities director and she says they are going to stop using the Flatwoods site and they are in the process of removing the site from the Reclaim Permit.

"I want to thank everybody who voted for the resolution last month," Wilkinson said. "This shows what we can get done by getting the facts, getting the word out and when we all work together."

Several Matlacha Civic Association board members attended the Cape Coral City Council meeting of April 23. At that meeting, City Manager John Szerlag addressed several options for the property in Matlacha annexed by the city of Cape Coral. One option included adding one new boat ramp and a 3,000-square-foot restaurant.

Matlacha resident Michael Hannon reported that MCA president Karl Deigert sent a letter to the Cape Coral mayor and City Council. Deigert suggested in the letter that MCA "supports the option to build a new boat ramp with a restaurant and other amenities and that the Board would like to meet with the Council to discuss how the lawsuit can be resolved to expedite permitting and construction of the boat ramp."

In new business ,the GPICA board opposes the Cape's proposed additional boat ramp(s) and a new 3,000-square-foot restaurant and issued a resolution:

"The GPICA strongly opposes the planned construction of any additional boat ramps and any buildings on the five (5) acres that Cape Coral recently annexed from Matlacha. This opposition is based on a strong concern for public safety and environmental integrity."

Of those members present, 27 approved of the resolution and 10 members opposed.

Eight nominations were taken for a "special election" to create a full board at the June 5 meeting of GPICA. GPICA plans to hold meetings throughout the summer.

The purpose of the GPICA shall be civic in nature, so as to unite, in common cause, the residents and organizations of Greater Pine Island.... in a continuing effort to preserve and maintain a desirable, livable community. Within this purpose, the GPICA shall promote environmentally responsible planning or smart growth; shall promote preservation of sensitive natural areas, and shall recognize and promote the unique character of our rural and agricultural Island community, and uphold those sections of the Lee County Plan that deal with Greater Pine Island and support those objectives. The GPICA shall undertake civic and educational actions to serve these purposes.

The next meeting of the GPICA is June 5 at the Pine Island Elks Club.



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