Notes from Jane Manske
About 50 people attended the meeting—from Shamrock Lakes, Lake Kennedy, and others on the system.
Presenters: Ms. Roberts and Jason Cull—Lee Co Aquatic Field Supervisor
--They sample the water quality of CC canals & lakes monthly. Good quality.
--Balanced approach is taken--aesthetics and water quality. Trying to control tape grass, water lilies, water hyacinths, etc.
--They have a drone that can also take water samples.
--Triploid grass carp is a sterile exotic fish from China that eats the tape grass. City added 1200 grass carp in 2018.
--$150,000 budget for chemicals in Lee Co. is not much higher than 1961 when Water Hyacinth department was created.
--They own 1 harvester that can take a 4-foot swatch of weeds out at a time. Very slow process and public access are far away from the lake systems. The harvester is not designed for tape grass so doesn't work well. The City needs to buy a lot and build a boat ramp so they have access to the lakes. Access to Shamrock Lakes with big equipment is restricted because of bridges.
--Residents that have lived on the CC lakes for over 20 years said this is the first time they have ever experienced such a mess with dead tape grass floating in the waterways. It's infringing on our way of life and the value of our properties. Most people were concerned about the dead grass floating on the water and the staff seemed to be more concerned about what is growing in the canals.
--Residents asked about dredging the lakes and canals for higher water levels.
--What caused this increase? Speculation of low water levels that encouraged the growth, and Irma that stirred the waters up.
--What can be done? Call 311 to report problems. This complaint system is centralized, tracked, and followed up. Call your city representatives. Go to city council meetings. Get on the agenda.
Notes from Barb O'Connell
Maya Robert, the Environmental Resources Manager at the City of Cape Coral, spoke first. She explained that our lakes are an intricate stormwater system with many monitor stations for water run-off. Of course, the lake is also used for recreation and irrigation. The blue-green algae that are an issue recently don't affect the City of Cape Coral canals. However, she did point out that it could. Aquatic vegetation is needed in the freshwater canal systems to act as natural filters for our stormwater. The vegetation is also a foraging ground for many species. Over time, the system varies in its vegetation and starts to aggressively grow, which is our current circumstance.
Jason Cull, Aquatic Field Supervisor, from the County, showed photos from the original canal structure in the 1950s through to today's population growth. The increase in buildings has put a strain on the lakes and canals. There are a number of plants growing in the lake. Tape Grass is what we see mainly that is invading Shamrock Lakes. However, there is musk grass, cattails, and water lettuce, among others.
The County has had over 100 service calls, mainly from Cape Coral, since January 2019 regarding plant growth and the condition of the lake & canals. Citizens need to know that no one chemical works for each type of plant. It's a trial and error method in some cases. All chemicals are EPA regulated and approved.
They have stocked 1200 Triploid grass carp in 2018 that to the vegetation. Tape Grass is the most difficult to control. They don't want to get rid of the vegetation all together as it's needed to keep a balance in the environment.
Kevin Watts, Deputy Director from the County, showed photos of a harvester that they use to remove the tape grass. Unfortunately, it only has a 4' cutter. They need access to a public ramp in order to have access to the lakes. Once they pick up the tape grass, they have to navigate back to the public ramp to dump it. The one they use for our area is located off Del Prado and takes a long time to travel the waterways. It's also very expensive.
In our real estate taxes, we pay a Hyacinth Dept. tax. However, as Kevin explained, the budget from years ago is about the same as today and the increase in use and people have exploded. The budget doesn't really allow for the expense of using a harvester. Plus, there are accessibility issues as they don't want to use a private boat ramp. Going under bridges when the water depth fluctuates is also a problem.
They are also using drones to get a better view of the area.
There was a lively discussion about all the issues the tape grass presents to us as homeowners. I believe the staff in attendance understood our concerns. Many residents were very vocal about how difficult it has been to boat, fish, and enjoy the beauty of the lake.
One of the main ways to receive help with the City is to call 311. Don't call the individual departments. A 311 call is monitored.
It was brought up that maybe the City could buy a lot (or two) to use as access. It was also mentioned going to a Chamber meeting to voice our concerns. Another suggestion was to meet again in the winter months when all our residents will be back to evaluate any progress and to continue to monitor and discuss any issues.
PERSONAL NOTE: I'm not sure how much was resolved, if anything, but at least we have a better understanding of the issues. We can also continue to voice our opinions.