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TAKING THE BOAT OUT? A look at what's making the water less than refreshing in the gulf

Lake O releae
Posted at 4:45 PM, Mar 01, 2024

CAPE CORAL, Fla. — On Friday, boaters looking to float out into the Gulf of Mexico, like Steve Johnson, talked with Fox 4 about what was making the water look less than refreshing.

“We have noticed a lot of dark water now due to the releases,” said Johnson.

Johnson is also the President of the Coastal Conservation Association (CCA) chapter in Fort Myers.

Johnson said the non-profit does a lot of work looking into the impact of water releases from Lake Okeechobee.

“The problem stems from the core of engineers working off an old release program that was designed back in 2008,” said Johnson.

On Friday, Johnson said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, who are in charge of the water releases, dumped millions of gallons of water down the Caloosahatchee River.

It solves the issue of localized flooding if Lake O were to overflow during the rainy season, but it also makes our water in southwest Florida look dark and murky.

"And that tends to cause the algae blooms that typically will happen more in the summertime than it does this time of year,” said Johnson.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers told Fox 4 through email they expect releases to continue through March.

Dr. Darren Rumbold, professor of Marine Science at Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU), said the issue is the timing of the releases.

“They had the opportunity to drain the lake, lower the lake earlier. they have been asked for months and months to start draining the lake,” said Rumbold.

Dr. Rumbold, who is also the director of the Coastal Watershed Institute, said earlier releases meant less water all at once.

“The real problem is they are dumping it in huge quantities instead of letting it release in a more natural state," said Johnson.

On Friday, as boaters in southwest Florida cruised into the weekend, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said boaters can look forward to a break in releases starting on Monday, March 4.