LEE COUNTY — The Florida Health Department now has several health advisories for both blue green algae and red tide across Southwest Florida.
At the same time, the Army Corps of Engineers tells us it can’t stop the releases from Lake Okeechobee that are causing it.
We got footage of tht algae on Friday at the Franklin Lock near Alva. James Evans at the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation said, it’s coming from the Lake Okeechobee water releases.
"The blooms are covering more than 500 square miles of the lake, and we’re only in May," said Evans.
Earlier this week, Evans’ organization signed a letter to Governor Ron DeSantis, calling for a State of Emergency, but the Governor didn’t support doing that. Instead, he gave them this direction.
"We’re just asking the Army Corps, take some steps to mitigate the potential for seeing some these releases over the summer," said DeSantis at a press conference in Fort Myers on Wednesday.
So the Corps will continue releasing right now, and the algae will keep coming, but the Corps said it has a plan to pulse the releases to help.
“The reason to go into pulse is to try to get some of the salinity at the lower end of the system a little bit higher to help kind of fight off some of the algae formation down there," said Col. Andrew Kelly.
That means water will be turned on and off, and when it’s off, salt water should enter the river, killing a lot of algae, but Evans said there’s a problem.
“There’s going to be more salt water pushing into the estuary that could help to break down the blue green algae. Unfortunately, those cells are still going to be releasing the nitrogen that could be available to red tide," said Evans.
On Friday, the Florida Department of Health released a new warning about red tide in several locations, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission shows it’s currently widespread.
Evans said he’s worried that could be a big problem for the Southwest Florida economy.
“Our businesses are just starting to recover from COVID, and we can’t afford another impact like this," said Evans.
Evans said he’d like to see more water heading away from Southwest Florida, possibly down toward the Everglades. Lake Okeechobee is still more than two feet higher than it was at this time last year, so the releases will likely continue for several more weeks.