The Environmental Committee’s objective is twofold. We will strive to assess and monitor issues that could negatively effect the health of Sanibel citizens, the island’s natural environment or the quality of our inland and surrounding coastal waters. Secondly, we will proactively educate and advocate for sound solutions to protect against specific threats in those areas.
In 2010, the Environmental Committee will be monitoring and addressing the following issues:
HEALTHY BEACHES PROGRAM
Lee County’s Health Department, under contract to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, performs weekly sampling of 13 Sanibel beach areas for the presence of fecal coliform and enterococci. For marine waters, enterococci have a direct dose-response relationship for both human gastrointestinal and respiratory illnesses. Since 2005 there have been numerous documented incidences of beach contamination which resulted in multiple beach closings. The Committee of the Islands is committed to monitoring the results of the current beach testing program. In addition, we will advocate for expanded bacterial and viral testing and investigation of the source of contamination when our beaches are “closed” to use by the public.
LAKE OKEECHOBEE RELEASES
The very high rainfall levels this winter and spring have helped our previous drought conditions, but the resulting high Lake O levels going into the summer rainy season now pose the serious threat of damaging high volume releases coming down the Caloosahatchee River and into our estuaries. Currently, the Corps’ regulation schedule manages the lake between 12.5 and 15.5 feet. Although reinforcement is underway, fear that the dike’s fragile condition will fail at higher water levels and flood lakeside communities makes public safety the Corps’ top priority. The massive releases that are likely to occur because of this will cause major damage to our estuaries. The need to find storage capacity for excess lake water has been and remains critical! Acting on the opportunity to redirect water south of the lake through the U.S. Sugar land is critical! The Committee of the Islands will monitor this issue to keep the membership informed and will advocate for solutions that are least harmful to our estuaries. We encourage the membership to join in telephoning or e-mailing the appropriate officials when the need arises.
The Committee of the Islands supports the City of Sanibel’s Draft Policy, updated on 9/6/08, on “Algae Clean Up of Sanibel Beaches”. Please refer below to “Supporting Documents” to read the policy. Hopefully, implementation won’t be necessary, but in the case it is warranted, the Committee of the Islands will advocate for the method least invasive to our beaches and wildlife.
RESORT REDEVELOPMENT AND COVERAGE AND CLEARANCE ALLOWANCE ISSUES
When nutrient laden polluted stormwater runoff is allowed to percolate into the soil, in effect, it is filtered. Plants and microorganisms are able to utilize the nutrients and organic matter which, if untreated, could contribute to algae blooms and fish kills when it eventually reaches the island’s open bodies of water and estuaries. The Committee of the Islands will monitor the Planning Commission as it discusses Resort Redevelopment and will advocate for not allowing any increase in the impermeable coverage and clearance allowance. Please refer below to “Supporting Documents” for Natural Resources Director, Rob Loflin’s memorandum on this issue.
WATER QUALITY AND FERTILIZER PREEMPTION LEGISLATION
Both the Florida House and Senate had bills in the 2010 legislative session which would limit local governments from addressing water quality impairments and the prevention of future degradation. In addition, the bills included State preemption of fertilizer regulations by local governments. This would have created a barrier to implementing our stronger Sanibel fertilizer ordinance. Luckily, both these bills failed to win passage in the closing days of the session. A reprieve for now, but the Committee of the Islands will continue to track and address any new developments.
The Committee of the Islands and The City of Sanibel among many other organizations and coastal communities crafted resolutions opposing off-shore drilling as the state legislature prepared to debate the issue. With the tragic explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig on April 21st, 50 miles off the coast of Louisiana, Rep. Dean Cannon announced that his committee would not be voting on a bill to expand drilling for oil and gas off the Florida coast. The issue now definitely appears to be dead for this year.
The Committee of the Islands will be alert for any change in developments and will be ready to strongly advocate against any drilling off the coast of Florida.
Chairperson: Barbara Cooley send an email