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Leaders in Lee County request Army Corps stop high-volume Lake O releases

Public leaders are teaming up to express their concerns about heavy water releases from Lake Okeechobee to the Caloosahatchee River in Southwest Florida before it’s too late.

The sight of toxic blue-green algae in our canals is not a distant memory. It plagued the region in 2018.

Mayors and Lee County commissioners wrote a letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District. They don’t want high-volume releases from Lake O sent to the Caloosahatchee.

Lee County, Cape Coral, Estero, Fort Myers, Fort Myers Beach, Sanibel and Bonita Springs want the Corps to manage the lake better and only send water our way when we need it.

“We need cooperation from the Army Corps of Engineers to minimize the impact of the water discharges over here,” Fort Myers Beach Mayor Ray Murphy said.

Murphy says Southwest Florida’s water is our livelihood.

“We are nothing down here without clean water,” Murphy said.

The letter from the public officials addresses Lake Okeechobee’s relatively high level, the new lake management schedule in the works and construction projects underway.

Doug Akins spends his mornings fishing on the Caloosahatchee.

“This keeps me out of trouble and out of my wife’s hair in the morning, so she’s onboard with this,” Akins said with a laugh.

From visiting the area for years, to moving to North Fort Myers full-time, Akins has seen the ups and downs of the water.

“It’s been dramatic,” Akins said.

Knowing leaders in Lee County have come together to advocate for the coast brings him hope.

“There’s people watching this closely, OK, and we want something done,” Akins said.

As the Corps explores different models for managing and moving water, local leaders hope they consider all communities.

“It’s not easy,” Murphy said. “It’s a very delicate balancing act, but we want to keep the pressure on them to make sure that it’s done properly.”

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U.S. Army Corps of Engineers statement

We are very pleased by the incredible participation we’ve received from our partners and stakeholders throughout the LOSOM process, and we continue to encourage these groups to keep providing their input as we complete the work this year on producing a Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual that focuses on memory and flexibility as it balances the way we manage the lake.

We are listening to this input from the various stakeholders and will continue to work within the Product Delivery Team structure to come up with a solution that balances those different needs.

Reporter:Stephanie Byrne
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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