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Lake Okeechobee water releases might benefit Caloosahatchee Estuary

Posted at 7:59 PM, Oct 09, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-11 10:49:11-04

Releasing water from Lake Okeechobee into the Caloosahatchee River was a major debate last summer when blue-green algae blooms were festering in Cape Coral canals for months. Many people voicing their concerns about stopping the flow from Lake O.

During certain times of year experts say water releases are necessary to maintain a healthy estuary. On Saturday the Army Corps of Engineers began minimum flows from Lake O to the Caloosahatchee estuary for the next seven days.

“These minimum flows we see during the dry season help make the system more resilient so that we can handle higher flows during the wet season and it’s very important on our local economy, of course we are a tourist based economy,” said James Evans, Director of Natural Resources, City of Sanibel.

It's a balancing act of salinity that is needed to help the wildlife thrive.

Evans says the amount of blue-green algae on Lake Okeechobee right now is about 20%, “last July we saw coverage on Lake Okeechobee in the 90 - 95 percent range.”

“The Army Corps of Engineers managed the lake differently this year and we think that helped for blue green algae and prevented it from developing it downstream in the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie,” said Mike Parsons, Professor of the Water School, Florida Gulf Coast University.

Experts don't foresee these releases to create blue-green algae blooms in our water.