Our community suffered greatly last summer from the triple whammy of Red Tide, Lake Okeechobee water releases and blue green algae in the Caloosahatchee River. Our businesses, residents and visitors all were impacted. Our sea life took a huge hit. As a result, we learned to keep our eye on water quality issues and speak up on these issues in order to protect the environmental and economic health of our community.
We watch what the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers does with Lake O water levels, progress on water storage and treatment projects around the lake, Everglades restoration efforts, algae levels on Lake O and Gulf red tide testing results. While we seem to have turned a corner on getting the attention of state and national decision makers, there is much left to do.
We continue to maintain our focus on threats to our water quality, but let’s not lose sight of the fact that right now, we have some pretty gorgeous water.
Get out there and enjoy it! Share it on social media!
If you’ve been out on the Gulf the past few weeks, you’ve seen the beautiful water quality we’ve been enjoying for yourself. A picture is worth a thousand words, so be sure to see the photo in this week’s Water Quality story. We are in a much better place this year in early June than we were last year. Why?
The difference comes down to how much water was released from Lake Okeechobee into the Caloosahatchee River this spring vs. last. The Army Corps has slowly dropped the level of the lake, to give the estuaries a break from the bombardment of algae-filled lake water releases, make room for summer rains and to encourage plant life on the lake bed, a crucial part of the lake’s ecosystem. At one time there was over 40,000 acres of plants. Now there’s only 5,000 acres on the lake bed. Those plants compete with algae for nutrients, help clean lake water and offer habitat for fish. The Army Corps says this is a one-time deal; they will not lower the lake this far next year.
The lake is now low enough that the community around it is complaining about how their economy is affected. Their fishing guides, hotels, businesses and communities are hurting.
We feel their pain. When algae-filled lake water is flushed our way, our businesses suffer too. Our fishing guides, hotels and communities are all hurt when the water is black and our shorelines are filled with dead fish and sea life, which has happened far too often in the past 10 years.
Our economy is just as important as the Lake O economy. Amazingly it has taken years to get that message across. We are not “coastal elites.” We are fishing guides, hotel housekeepers, restaurant servers, just like those around the lake.
Poor water management hurts all of us. We can’t wait until all the projects are done to change how Lake O is managed. We need to find a plan now that balances the needs of ALL communities – the coastal estuaries and the Lake O community.
We are surrounded by beautiful turquoise water right now – an excellent example of what is possible with intelligent, balanced water management.