‘We’ve got to put a stop to it’: lawmakers, residents call for algae clean-up

Reporter: Morgan Rynor
Published: Updated:


Algae blooms are taking over SWFL waterways. And even though the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has announced long-term plans to curb the problem, neighbors and some elected officials want solutions now.

“I think it’s been a real big issue,” said Fort Myers resident Janet Dejesus.

Adam Bright

Weeks after the Army Corps of Engineers began releasing water from Lake Okeechobee to prevent inland flooding, SWFL is still dealing with the foul aftermath in the form of blue-green algae.

“I moved here because of the beauty of the river and the real color of the river, and the real color of the ocean. And every day, more and more of that is taken away from me,” Dejesus said.

Traces of the algal blooms have made their way as far west as the southern tip of Cape Coral and some fear it could hurt more than just quality of life for coastal residents.

“This is HORRIBLE. And this is going to affect us, our tourists, our kids, our grand kids, their kids. This is horrible,” said Lehigh resident Wendi Muldihill.

The Army Corps of Engineers announced plans Thursday to expedite improvements on the Herbert Hoover Dike, but that move is only expected to decrease releases from Lake O by 2022.

“Year after year we’ve been dealing with this issue, and we’ve got to put a stop to it,” said Rep. Dane Eagle.

Eagle is leading a delegation of SWFL lawmakers to do just that. They wrote a letter urging Gov. Rick Scott to declare a state of emergency which they hope will lead to more immediate solutions.

Calusa Waterkeeper

“If there’s a state of emergency, the governor can bypass the legislature and work on some of those things, direct his agencies to focus on the immediate issues at hand,” Eagle said.

And plenty of people say that whatever steps are taken must be taken soon.

“And there needs to be a plan of action. That needs to take place. And it needs to happen now,”Muldihill said.

Gov. Scott’s office released the following statement in response to the letter:

“Gov. Scott has taken action to combat the algal blooms resulting from the Army Corps of Engineers’ water releases from Lake Okeechobee. This includes ordering the Department of Environmental Protection to issue an emergency declaration to move more water south of the Lake and installing water monitoring stations on the Caloosahatchee River so water experts have more data to mitigate the problem. Also, he signed a bill that expedited the EAA reservoir and secured full federal funding to fix the Herbert Hoover Dike three years ahead of schedule – something Congress has failed to do for decades. He will continue to identify ways to secure the clean water that Florida residents deserve and will never stop fighting to alleviate the federal Corps’ harmful water discharges.”


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