COST OF THE CURTAIN: Who pays for the technology aimed at keeping blue-green algae at bay?

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WINK News has spoken with many Cape Coral residents to address some pressing questions surrounding bubble curtains, which are aimed at reducing algae entering our canal system from the Caloosahatchee River.

Are they effective? How are damaged ones being fixed? Additionally, who bears the financial responsibility for these tools?

According to a Cape Coral representative, since 2021, the city has encumbered $864,364.66 on this effort. The actual expenditures to date are $637,365.28, with an unspent balance of $226,999.38 in various purchase orders.

The cost per bubble curtain is approximately $70,000, and they are funded through the Stormwater Restricted Fund. Taxpayers that own property in Cape Coral pay stormwater fees through the annual tax bill issued by Leepa. 

Ultimately, taxpayer dollars are being used to help keep the canals clean. However, not everyone is on board with the current methods. Former Calusa Waterkeeper John Cassani made his opinions very clear.

“My experience with these subsurface diffusers or bubble curtains is that they have some application for dispersing and breaking up algae in a small pond,” Cassani said. “But they’re not as much use in a tidal canal or where water is moving in and out on a daily basis.”

Cassani also believes city officials need to take another look at their plan.

“I think the bubble curtains being used in the way the city’s using them is pretty much worthless,” Cassani said. “I think it’s so ineffective, that it’s almost funny…if the city was spending as much money on pollutant or nutrient reduction programs as they are on bubble curtains, then I think maybe we’d see a little more effectiveness from that kind of expenditure of public funds.”

Cape Coral officials disagree, and told WINK News earlier this week the curtains are working correctly. A representative provided us with this statement:

“The City has to follow strict Army Corps of Engineers protocols, so the bubble curtains are turned on five hours before high tide and turned off one hour after high tide. This allows the tide to flush out any algae.”

WINK News also found out that Cape Coral is looking at installing more curtains south of Cape Coral Parkway; however, these locations will need additional permitting.

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