Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Cape Coral Moving Forward to Reduce Harmful Algae Blooms


Sierra Club members in Cape Coral spoke up at  a public workshop last night on a proposed fertilizer ordinance to be considered by the City Council.   Cape Coral is the only municipality in Lee County that has not adopted a strong fertilizer management ordinance.

The need for Cape Coral to get on board with the rest of southwest Florida was highlighted by the Fort Myers News Press recently in a series of articles on the declining water quality of the Caloosahatchee.  Cape Coral's 400 miles of canals cut through the city's well-fertilized lawns, creating serious impacts on the Caloosahatchee River and the Gulf of Mexico.

One of the goals of the Sierra Club's Red Tide Campaign is the reduction in runoff of excessive nitrogen and phosphorus found in fertilizers.  Nitrogen and phosphorus fuel the growth of harmful algal blooms like Red Tide and blue green algae; blooms that kill fish, manatees, birds, turtles and other wildlife, cause respiratory problems and even more severe medical conditions to human life and negatively impact our tourism economy, as well as recreational and commercial fishing industries.
Fertilizer ordinances are one of the tools to reduce nutrient runoff in our water bodies by establishing fertilizer free buffer zones in our yards, banning fertilizers containing nitrogen and phosphorus during the summer rainy season, using slow release nitrogen when fertilizing is permitted and applying fertilizer at rates that benefit the plant without over-fertilization.
The significance of this public workshop was the opportunity for the City Council to ask in-depth questions to City staff about the ordinance. It was not a public hearing but there was time allocated for citizen input. After a workshop is held, the first reading of the ordinance follows in a few weeks. 

Sierra Club conservation organizer Marti Daltry and Cape Coral residents Rose Young, Carl Veaux,,  and Beverly Saltonstall spoke in favor of the proposed ordinance.   The group recommended that the ordinance include a more stringent fertilizer free zone (instead of 3 feet with a deflector shield on the spreader) to 10 feet fertilizer free zone and the prohibition of fertilizing new plants for the first 30 days (it is a waste of fertilizer as the turf is not fully rooted).

City staff acknowledged those recommendations and promised to incorporate them into their revised draft. A public hearing date of Monday, November 29, 2010 has been set for the first reading of the revised fertilizer ordinance. 

Submitted by Marti Daltry, Conservation Organizer, Sierra Club –Ft. Myers Office