A picture is truly worth a thousand words, as this one clearly shows the difference between our water clarity from early June this year (top) and last year (bottom) as seen from Sanibel’s Lighthouse Park.
The weekly Caloosahatchee River & Estuary Condition Report released June 11, 2019 by the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation summarized, “Water clarity around Sanibel and Captiva is excellent.” The same could be said for Fort Myers Beach, which is free of Red Tide and blue-green algae.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) have been lowering the level of Lake Okeechobee slowly for months, making room for the water that is sure to come during the rainy season, allowing regeneration of underwater vegetation in the lake and allowing healthier estuary salinity levels.
“Our strategy to lower Lake Okeechobee levels this year is working,” said Col. Andrew Kelly, Jacksonville District Commander, on May 31 as he announced reduced releases to the estuaries. “We’re in a good position right now, with additional storage capacity that reduces risk of high releases to the estuaries during the wet season. The lake continues to recede as evapotranspiration kicks up a notch, as the days get longer and warmer.”
On June 1, the USACE announced that they planned to reduce flows to the Caloosahatchee to an average of 450 cubic feet per second (CFS) as measured at S-79 (Franklin Lock). The 7-day average at S-79 for the week ending June 10 was 738 cfs, primarily from rainfall in the watershed. The Lake O level was at 10.99 ft and rising; last week’s level was 10.83 ft.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has continued reporting weekly test results for Red Tide since our area was declared clear of it last December. The most recent report, June 7, 2019, showed “Not Present” or “Background” at all Lee County locations.
By Missy Layfield
Photo credit: City of Sanibel