FORT MYERS, Fla. — When it comes to handling the current red tide on the Caloosahatchee River, Captain Chris Wittman said it's about finding a cure not just treating the symptoms.
“How our waters are managed can create a catastrophic bloom out of something that is moderate,” said Wittman.
It's a fear, Wittman the co-founder of the non-profit, Captains for Clean Water, said is a reality Southwest Florida could face during the rainy season.
Wittman said future water releases from Okeechobee into the Caloosahatchee River could increase the harmful impact of existing Red Tide.
“The nutrients and pollution in that water from the lake is like adding fuel to a forest fire, it makes these blooms have a longer duration and become much more toxic,” said Wittman.
On Tuesday, Wittman said Lake O water levels were already over 15 feet.
“The good news is we do have a path out of that, it's called Everglades restoration,” said Wittman.
Wittman told Fox 4 Everglades Restoration was voted into Florida law back in 2000.
Wittman said it would allow harmful water releases from Lake O to be cleaned and sent to other areas besides just southwest Florida.
“We need to be able to take that water, clean it, store it, and send it south so that way we have more capacity in the system to deal with the water,” said Wittman.
Wittman admitted it's been a slow-moving process that he says wasn't seen as a priority when it was voted into law 23 years ago.
“For the first half of that time frame that was expected, it did not move at the pace it could have,” said Wittman.
On Tuesday, it's the answer Captains for Clean Water feel would help solve the problems below the surface.
“The solution isn't to figure out what kind of gizmo we can create to suck the algae out of the water it's what can we do with water management to stop the algae from getting into the water in the first place,” said Wittman.