SANIBEL ISLAND, Fla. - After traveling hundreds of miles from Virginia, Sue and Howard Blake dreamed of the pristine Sanibel Island they'd experienced 6 years ago. "For 8 months, I took my check each week and would put it in a special savings account I had," Howard said. "I saved up almost $3,000."
"We are on social security and knew this would probably be the last big trip that we would take," Sue said. "We are still able to work the part time jobs to save the money. We don't know how much longer we'll be able to do that."
This trip, the Gulf was different. "I thought maybe it was just dirty," Howard said.
At first, Sure thought, "Maybe they had another oil spill. I said, this is horrible."
The emerald water they remember looks more like coffee, a result of freshwater releases from Lake Okeechobee. "Heartbroken," Sue said, describing how she feels at the end of her trip. "Really just disgusted. And, I wish I had never come."
"I haven't taken any pictures," Howard said. "Usually, we take pictures of everything. She took a few. I didn't take any. I just didn't feel like it."
The Army Corps of Engineers releases water from Lake Okeechobee into the Caloosahatchee River to ease pressure on the aging Hoover Dike. A break could be disastrous. Friday, the Corps decided to reduce the amount of freshwater releases by 40%.
Still, organizers are preparing for Saturday's "Save Our Bay" Rally on the Sanibel Causeway. They understand the concerns from the Army Corps of Engineers but ask why government leaders didn't find alternatives to mass releases sooner.
Organizers hope 500 or more will show up to the rally which starts at 8 a.m. On the last spoil island before Sanibel. Howard and Sue hope to be out of town before it starts. "It may sound trite, but it was special and it just didn't happen," Howard said.