Cape seeks state funding for reservoir pipeline

Cape Coral Daily Breeze

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Last year’s drought was a real eye opener for Cape Coral officials struggling to keep enough water in city canals to be able to fight fires and for residents to water their lawns.

This year, the city has asked for help from the state and its state representative to make sure it is prepared in the future.

State Rep. Dane Eagle, R-77, has filed an appropriations bill requesting $1,115,000 in state funds for the city of Cape Coral to engineer, design and permit a 3.5-mile pipeline from Southwest Aggregates Mining reservoir in south Charlotte County to Gator Slough in northeast Cape Coral.

The pipeline would provide an additional freshwater supply for the city’s canal system, which provides irrigation and fire protection in Cape Coral.

Eagle said the issue is both qualitative and quantitative. The pipeline project into the reservoir would allow the city to use that water during drought and for a variety of purposes.

“A lot of the water going into the Caloosahatchee is runoff water. We would be diverting some of this water into a reservoir northeast of Cape Coral,” Eagle said. “We had a record drought last year and were at a loss regarding irrigating lawns and the canals were drying up.”

Eagle sought funding last year for the project in the midst of the drought, but was unable to get the $2.5 million the city was looking for.

This year, the city met the state halfway, agreeing to match the state’s payment for the project, which could be used in a way so that during unusually wet winters, the pipeline could be shut down so as to not flood the canals.

Eagle said the city’s contribution is par for the course regarding this type of allocation, which will only help its case when decisions are made.

“We allocate each year a certain portion of money for these types of projects in our communities,” Eagle said. “The fact the city is matching that is helpful and makes it more favorable when we consider it.”

In the past, the city used its reclamation facility as the main source for irrigation water, with the canals being a supplement. In recent years, it has gone the opposite way.

The city has evaluated using the reservoir as potential storage area for irrigation water for several years.

Last year, the city was able to accelerate a test run on the reservoir when severe drought conditions were depleting the city’s freshwater canal system. Officials say the test proved to be very successful.

Water from the reservoir property flowed into drainage ditches along U.S. 41 and into the Gator Slough canal system.

“We were looking at a point where we needed to see whether the reservoir could be a solution for us,” city spokesperson Connie Barron said.

Barron said the city worked with the South Florida Water Management District, Southwest Florida Water Management District, Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Florida Department of Transportation to acquire the necessary permits to allow the city to pump water from the reservoir to replenish the city’s freshwater canals.

The pipeline would likely be installed along the U.S. 41 drainage ditches underground, into the slough, which would feed the canals throughout the city.

The project could also benefit the Charlotte Harbor Flatwoods Initiative area by reducing flooding in the Cecil M. Webb Wildlife Management Area.

“We’re looking at it as a long-term solution to meet the irrigation demands of the city as it continues to grow. To move forward on it, we need to design the design and engineering and that is what the money would be for,” Barron said.

“Our freshwater canal system provides the majority of irrigation water for our residents during the dry season,” said Utilities Director Jeff Pearson. “As demand increases, the city needs to continue developing additional sources of water, and the reservoir could be a reliable long-term option for our community.”

If funding is approved, the design would take about 18 months to complete, while construction of the pipeline could cost about $8 million and take up to two years to finish, Barron said.

Posted by Michael Dornetshuber

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