Lake O releases now could benefit Southwest Florida’s coast

Could lake releases flowing into local waters benefit places like Fort Myers Beach?

A lot more water is being released from Lake Okeechobee and heading toward Southwest Florida beginning Saturday.

Scientist Dr. Richard Bartleson with Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation said water the state’s army corps of engineers will be releasing over the next 21 days could stir up shorelines.

“Over the next couple of weeks, the water will get a little more browner,” Bartleson said.

This coincides with the time spring break vacationers visit the area.

“It’s just not as clean, and some of the local bars or places by the beach could lose business,” Caitlin Billings said.

The corps said Lake O has risen more than half a foot over the past month, so the army corps is sending about 1,800 Olympic swimming pools of fresh water to local waters each day.

Bartleson said it’s not enough to cause worry regarding algae.

“Anything over 2,000 cubic feet per second is too high for the estuary,” Bartleson said. “So we have harmed oysters, harmed seagrass when the levels get up.”

Bartleson said releases won’t deter what’s called macroalgae that has appeared on local beaches recently, but Bartelson said that type of algae isn’t harming the environment.

Bartleson said it’s actually better the corps is releasing the water before the rainy season when algae is more likely to form.

“We all just have to be patient,” Bartleson said. “And we have to understand that this needs to be preserved, and sometimes things have to be done to make that happen.”

Reporter:Gina Tomlinson
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