Freshwater runoff leads to dark water near Sanibel

Dark water has been spotted around Sanibel after recent heavy rain into the Caloosahatchee River. The Army Corps said Lake Okeechobee releases could also occur soon. The question now: If the water looks like this after local runoff, what would it look like after the possible releases?

“Usually it’s got more of an aqua green color to it, but I’ve noticed the last two weeks or so it’s turned more to a darker brown color,” said Dennis Austerman.

He was out on the Sanibel Causeway on Wednesday with his friend Wendy Tuttle and has noticed the water changing. But, they aren’t worried.

“I don’t know. Living here pretty much all my life, this is like a normal thing sometimes in the summer,” said Austerman.

“I don’t think about it” Tuttle added.

The WINK News drone flew over on Wednesday and saw the dark and murky brown water colliding with the green water near Sanibel’s Lighthouse Point.

James Evans, environmental policy director at the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation, blames a freshwater plume on the heavy rains we’ve been getting recently. “That’s the dark water, the organics in the water, and all of those things that run off the landscape from plants and soils that make that water dark. Running off the landscape, moving through the Caloosahatchee watershed, into the water, and out into the Gulf of Mexico.”

Capt. Daniel Andrews, co-founder and executive director of Captains for Clean Water, said the estuary just can’t handle all of the freshwater. “It’s about twice what the harm threshold is for oysters and seagrass in the mouth of the river and that’s water that’s not coming from Lake Okeechobee.”

SCCF and other groups are pleading with the Army Corps to hold off on Lake O releases, but the darker waters and unbalance aren’t going to stop Tuttle and Austerman from visiting.

“We’re pretty good. We’re not going to stop coming,” Austerman said.

The water level of Lake O has increased about a foot in the past week and now sits at over 15 feet.

An announcement from the Army Corps is expected Thursday on whether or not they will authorize releases from the lake.

Reporter:Stephanie Byrne
Writer:Drew Hill
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