Under a consent order between the State of Florida Department of Environmental Regulation and a local developer, a freshwater retention system deemed the North Spreader Canal (NSC) was constructed between 1977 and 1984. This included canals and a barrier with a boat lift at the southern end of the system. Following the completion of the barrier in 1984, the system developed areas of significant erosion and various breaches occurred. These breaches allowed tidal water from Matlacha Pass to flow into the NSC. This created a system that mixed stormwater with the tidal flow from Matlacha Pass, creating a brackish estuarine environment with high levels of salinity fluctuation. In 2008, the barrier was removed and remains out today. Lee County in partnership with the City of Cape Coral initiated a project entitled the Northwest Cape Coral/Lee County Watershed Initiative.
The goals of the project were to assess the water quality conditions in the spreader canal and the adjacent waters of Matlacha Pass, develop a hydrodynamic model to simulate the hydrodynamics within the system including, circulation, residence time and salinity, and utilize the model to assess the impacts to hydrodynamics and water quality under pre-defined spreader canal management scenarios. Specific scenarios evaluated included re-installation of the barrier, flow reductions in the upper watershed, and increased connectivity between the spreader canal and the adjacent waters of Matlacha Pass.