MURDOCK – Developing a plan of action for establishing grass carp in the Rotonda River was a primary concern at the West Charlotte Stormwater Utility Advisory Committee meeting Wednesday in Murdock.
“Initially we were going to fund (the carp and barrier projects) through the Rotonda West Association,” said committee member Stan Plizga. “Now we’re doing it through the Municipal Service Benefit Units.”
To establish a sterile grass carp colony to control the invasive hydrilla, an aquatic weed, a series of permits would have be approved for the carp and the barriers to enclose them.
Among the obstacles in the carp project is the erosion of sewer pipes under the Rotonda River.
The committee discussed prior meetings with Charlotte County Commissioner Bill Truex, who has a background in construction, and Johnson Engineering, who is contracted for the project.
“(Charlotte County Maintenance and Operations Road Superintendent) Mike Dallenbach gave (an) estimate on cost (for) maintenance of $200,000 to realign pipes,” said Hank Killion, chairman of the committee. “Truex and Dallenbach agreed that it would be more cost efficient to realign the pipes than (replace) them.”
Plizga said the permits for the carp have been in place since 2003, but have had to be amended.
“Now we need approval from (the) Southwest Florida Water Management District, and carp barriers through (the) Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission,” Plizga said.
Plizga said the cost of the drawings for the projects is $14,000.
“We don’t know if they’ll be approved for planning,” he said. “We then have the other phases we have to go through that incur their own costs. I wish it could have been simpler. I’m hoping (Johnson Engineering) combines the projects. It seems easier to me, but I’m not sure because it’s at the county level.”
Plizga said Charlotte County may assign priority to address the erosion.
“The committee will continue to monitor progress,” he said. “The barriers have to be placed around the culverts. It is what it is, because it’s a process. It’s frustrating at times.”
Killion and Plizga agreed the lack of regular meetings with the MSBU advisory board and Charlotte County is impeding the progress of the carp projects.
“Permits are in place,” Killion said. “Anytime you’re dealing with government agencies, it takes longer than expected. (The) bottom line is that it is done in a correct manner and we don’t short circuit anything. If we’re going to do things, we’re going to do them right.”
Not everybody agrees that having grass carp in the Rotonda River will address the appropriate environmental needs.
“Killing off one type of weed means that it will be replaced by another type,” Norb Zoltowski stated in an email to the committee prior to the meeting. “In the past, the replacement weed was tape grass, once the grass carp ate the hydrilla and other weeds they favor. The grass carp will not eat the tape grass, as it settles on the bottom. Cutting and removal (of the plants) have worked just great. There will be no significant savings; it’s just an added expense for stocking carp.”
“If it’s so ineffective, why (do) Lee and Charlotte (counties) have grass carp programs everywhere?” Killion responded at the meeting. “It’s just sour grapes.”