Blue-green algae migrating to the Caloosahatchee Estuary

Reporter: Elizabeth Biro Writer: Paul Dolan
Published: Updated:

Two months have passed since health alerts showed that blue-green algae are in our waterways.

We’ve seen it in places like the Davis or Alva Boat Ramps, and more recently, it has begun spreading through the canals of Cape Coral. However, on Wednesday, blue-gree algae were seen in some different areas.

What’s startling is the Caloosahatchee Estuary isn’t a shallow, dead-end canal where algae easily grow. The Caloosahatchee Estuary is big and open, which means it’s atypical to see algae there. That said, in 2018, a blue-green algae bloom occurred in the estuary. That was during the worst blue-green algae crisis facing the community.

blue green algae
Blue-green algae in the Caloosahatchee Estuary. CREDIT: WINK News

Ordinarily, Wendy White enjoys eating lunch overlooking the water, but due to the blue-green algae bloom, the view on Wednesday was different.

“It looks like neon green, it kind of looks radioactive,” said White.

It’s not the place we typically see blue-green algae. Meanwhile, Whiskey Creek, a short 15 minutes inland, is another area that typically doesn’t see algae. Julie Drake has lived in the Whiskey Creek area for nine years, and she knows how unusual this is.

“It’s just the second time we’ve seen it. The last time I guess was 2018 And then this just showed up yesterday,” said Drake. “Just shocked. Surprised to see it again.”

The growing gunk in these spots raises the question, are we looking at another 2018? A look at the timeline says maybe, but possibly delayed. Blue-green algae were spotted in these areas earlier in 2018 and then in downtown Fort Myers on June 28, 2018.

A couple of days before that, Clipper Bay looked worse than anything we have seen this year. You could see blue, green and white decaying mats. By July 11, 2018, algae weren’t just in portions of canals, it coated them entirely.

The major difference between the last two years is how the Army Corps of Engineers handles Lake Okeechobee. Releases directly from the lake can carry blue-green algae and nutrients that feed what we already have. That freshwater influx also creates the perfect conditions for algae to grow.

In 2018, the Herbert Hoover Dike was fragile, but repairs have since been completed.

In 2023, we have no water coming directly from the lake. Any flows through the Caloosahatchee are coming from the Franklin Lock in Olga and our local runoff.

Copyright ©2023 Fort Myers Broadcasting. All rights reserved.

This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without prior written consent.