FORT MYERS BEACH, Fla.,- Tainted, discolored water is crashing to the shore on Fort Myers Beach. Water levels at Lake Okeechobee have hit its peak. The army corp of engineers has no other choice than to open the gates and release the water.
The water on Fort Myers Beach is usually a blue/green color, but it now resembles the color of tea or maybe even coffee. We are in the path of Lake O's downward stream, and the mix of fresh and salt water is impacting our beaches. In fact, more water was released this morning to help control Lake O's water level.
"I've never seen the water look like this and I've never seen releases this high in the five years I have worked on the island," said Environmental Sciences Coordinator, Keith Laakkonen.
The water levels at Lake O needs to be between 12 1/2 to 15 1/2 feet, but right now it's at 15. 62 feet.
"If there was more storage in the system, we might not be getting this flow because you could bank some of that water, so we wouldn't get it all at once."
The stresses on Fort Myers Beaches' ecosystem could be deadly.
"when you lose your oysters and sea grass, you lose the base of the ecosystem...You lose your fisheries habitat...You know this is where snook and red fish feed and crab and shrimp depend upon."
Environmental Sciences Coordinator, Keith Laakkonen, says the estuary depends on the delicate balance of fresh water and salt water. The affects from the release is making the water just a little too fresh and little too dark.
"light can't actually penetrate to the bottom which is preventing algae from growing and sea grass from proliferating."
Others worry the islands tourism industry will take a hit.
"I don't think it's too attractive to tourist when it looks like this, I think they will be worried about getting in the water because they don't know why it looks like this," said beach goer Natalie Peters.
The Lee County Health Department and the beach is monitoring the situation. We're told the only way to get the water back to that blue/green color is to cut back on the releases. The Army Corp of Engineers says, the gates will remain open until further notice. They say there is no harm to the public.