Lake O releases to Caloosahatchee expected soon due to water level

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is worried about how quickly the level of Lake Okeechobee is rising, and a way to fix that is to release the water down the river.

We spoke to a fishing captain in Southwest Florida Friday who says he can’t take another blow.

For captain Billy Norris, with Pale Horse Fishing Charters, he worries about releases from Lake O to the Caloosahatchee River.

“I’m just frustrated with the Army Corps of Engineers,” Norris said.

Norris said it’s just too much freshwater for some of the plants and animals in this water to handle.

“When they dump the water, that’s when you see a lot of fish kill come from that because it’s almost like a shock to their whole body,” Norris said.

Calusa waterkeeper John Cassani said too much freshwater can make the water look dark and divided.

“You see almost this turquoise color versus this almost coffee black color, a very dramatic contrast between the two water types,” Cassani said.

The Army Corps of Engineers says water levels in Lak O have jumped more than a foot over the past month, so water must be released to protect the Herbert Hoover Dike surrounding the lake.

That’s something Cassani says could harm waterways in Southwest Florida.

“When you completely turn that to fresh water, it really has an impact on the animals, especially those that can’t swim away, like clams and oysters,” Cassani said.

Once the reservoir south of Lake O is complete, the releases can flow there instead. But people want that project finished sooner, so this doesn’t have to happen.

“I don’t want them to run the water down the Caloosahatchee River,” said BJ Turner in Fort Myers. “That water should be running south.”

We also spoke to a woman off-camera who owns a vacation rental along the Caloosahatchee. She worries water releases will hurt her business because she’s just now getting back on her feet from the pandemic.

The Army Corps says it will likely start the releases next week because of the active hurricane season. With the current lake level, it says you don’t want a storm like Irma, dumping feet of water in the lake.

“Get the reservoir built, so they can push the water south like it’s supposed to go,” Norris said.

Reporter:Justin Kase
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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