Local mayors, leaders rallying to send Lake O releases elsewhere

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Sanibel’s mayor took his mission for clean water to Fort Myers Beach on Monday. He’s leading the charge against the fresh water releases from Lake Okeechobee.

The water from the releases have started to turn water off the SWFL coastline a murky brown color, leaving many who call the area home or who visit it frustrated.

Sanibel Mayor Kevin Ruane is asking that officials start sending less of the releases here, and more to the north and south.

“It’s concerning. I have four kids. You know three, four, eight and a little one-year-old. So you kind of think should we let them on the water today or not?” said Mark Zukowski.

The Zukowski family recently moved to Fort Myers Beach but say that even though the releases happen every year, it’s still a shock.

“It’s a nice color one day and you hear the warnings about the overhead shots that they’re doing and then all of a sudden within a couple days it looks like tea. It’s brown,” Zukowski said.

Lake O releases are responsible for the poor water quality but also necessary to protect the community around the Hoover Dike, officials say. However, more local mayors are now unifying to find a better solution to the murky mess.

“I’m looking to get a collective effort from all the surrounding mayors and communities together,” said Fort Myers Beach Mayor Tracey Gore.

“What we’re trying to do is build a grass roots efforts for elected officials to come together,” added Mayor Ruane.

Ruane is rallying other mayors, local leaders and activists hoping to give SWFL a break.

“We’re looking for a shared adversity and we’re looking to have water held north. Send it east, send it west, and send it south. We’re starting to send water south which is unprecedented,” Ruane said.

But change will take time and persistence.

“Daily, weekly. You can’t just let three months go by and hope that things are going to stop,” Zukowski said.

Ruane is also meeting with the mayors of Fort Myers and Cape Coral to back his call to action. He’s working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as well to hopefully find a solution sooner rather than later.

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