SANIBEL, Fla.- Our beaches may look pretty from a distance, but when you look up close, you can see Southwest Florida's coastline has turned dark brown in recent weeks, thanks in large part to fresh water releases from Lake Okeechobee.
Today, Governor Rick Scott will be touring Lake O, ahead of a $40 million push to clean up local estuaries.
Governor Scott is blaming the Army Corps of Engineers for recent water releases from Lake Okeechobee. The Governor says the Corps' decision to release the water has caused fish kills and toxic water flowing to the east. Here on the west coast, you can make out a distinct line between the Gulf water and the water released from the lake. He also says, "the 50-year-old Lake Okeechobee structure is supposed to be a 100 percent federal responsibility. Yet, it has deteriorated due to a lack of investment and maintenance by the Corps of Engineers."
John Campbell from the Army Corps of Engineers stopped by radio station 92.5 today to address local issues. He said it's not just the lake releases, but a wetter-than-average summer is also to blame. Campbells said their main concern is managing the 730-square-foot lake, and the water has to go somewhere.
"The water collects into the lake, but also it's important to keep in mind there's run-off collecting between the lake and Fort Myers, in the Caloosahatchee River Basin. And in fact, more water is going to the estuary from the basin than from the lake," said Campbell.
He also said the west coast isn't the only area feeling the impact. Campbell said one can argue the east coast is getting hit worse, with health advisories in the Atlantic. Even so, in Sanibel locals are not happy with the state of the water. The mayor is in Tallahassee, talking to state officials about the economic impacts of the water releases, ahead of a special city council meeting on the same issue tomorrow morning.
The Army Corps released a statement saying it is "disappointed" in the governor's letter and working on water control structures at the lake.