Experts not too concerned about Lake O releases to Caloosahatchee

There are concerns ahead of Lake Okeechobee releases to the Caloosahatchee River. The water quality crisis at its height in 2018 is not something locals will soon forget in Southwest Florida. But experts say the releases expected in the near future could actually bring benefits.

The weather is cooling down, and Florida Gulf Coast University professor Barry Rosen with The Water School said that makes it unlikely that we will see blue-green algae blooms due to Lake O releases coming to waterways in Southwest Florida. He says it’s all about timing, and a release in the fall should help canals stay clean and clear.

The canal behind Anthony Karp’s home in Cape Coral had no sign of algae on Friday, a stark contrast from 2018 when the canal filled with gunky blue-green algae that kept him and his family from going outside.

“It would give you a burning sensation when you inhale through your nose and into your lungs, so you knew it was bad,” Karp said.

Karp says he believes the gunk came from Lake O water released into the Caloosahatchee.

“It was going right down the river, the Caloosahatchee River, towards the Gulf, and it was settling in all the canals,” Karp said.

Karp wants to make sure the upcoming lake releases won’t cause another water nightmare.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans to release 4,000 cubic feet per second of water into the Caloosahatchee next week. That’s enough to fill four tanker trucks. It’s all because recent rainfall pushed lake levels above 16 feet.

“So the lake is rising faster, and it’s increasing its rate of rise,” said Col. Andrew Kelly with the corp’s Jacksonville district.

Rosen said the releases shouldn’t cause a cyanobacteria outbreak in Southwest Florida’s freshwater systems.

“It’s not summertime. There’s not a big bloom inside the lake. There’s not much in the canal system as far as cyanobacteria goes,” Rosen said. “It’s going to actually wash things out. With that kind of volume, it’s going to push things out pretty quickly.”

As for salty and stagnant water, Rosen said we could see some small blooms with the mixture of freshwater from the releases. He said it will take a couple of weeks to see if anything grows. The releases will last four weeks depending on how much rain falls moving forward.

Karp hopes the releases “will be controlled much better this time and that we won’t have to suffer anymore.”

Reporter:Breana Ross
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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