Lake O releases to remain the same, some believe it threatens the SWFL ecosystem

Reporter: Dannielle Garcia
Published: Updated:

Lake Okeechobee’s water releases will remain at the current levels. That’s the word Friday from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

For people who live along the Caloosahatchee River or by Lake O, they say it’s not good news.

The people who care about the health of the Caloosahatchee want the releases to increase because they say more fresh water will ensure the health of the river during the dry season.

And the people who live near the lake say lake levels are too low already, and they want the releases to stop.

The Caloosahatchee River is home to thousands of species that make up southwest Florida’s ecosystem.

But the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation believes the ecosystem is threatened because the Army Corps is not releasing enough fresh water from Lake Okeechobee.

The result: the salinity levels are at harmful highs.

Natural Resource Policy Director with SCCF Rae Ann Wessel, says, “When the salinity gets too high it kills off the tape grass … if you take that away you’re taking away a free filter, and we know what kind of water quality issues we’ve had and continue to have.”

Ramon Iglesias, who lives near the lake and co-founded Anglers for Lake O, understands the need for clean, fresh water, “It’s interesting that our water now to the West Coast appears to be healthy, where as times before it was deemed to be toxic.”

“We’re about 4 or 5 inches lower than what we were last year at this time,” he added.

But Iglesias says if the Army Corps released more water the impact on people whose livelihoods depend on the health of the lake would be dramatic, “The biggest concern for the Caloosahatchee is it’s dry, it’s projected to remain dry and were going to need more water because this a just the beginning of the dry season.”

Next week, the South Florida Water Management District will meet at FGCU to discuss the future of Lake O’s releases and ways to help the water crisis.

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