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Caloosahatchee River & Estuary

  • 67 miles long, the river was once shallow and winding with oxbows.
  • Now regulated waterway for navigation and discharge of Lake Okeechobee water releases.
  • Watershed west of Lake O developed and over-drained, sending even more polluted waters to the estuary.
  • World famous for its inshore fishing, the river is known to be where the first tarpon was caught by rod and reel in 1885, forever changing angling history.
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Lake Okeechobee

  • 730 square miles, the 2nd largest freshwater lake in the continental US.
  • Nationally recognized largemouth bass and black crappie fisheries, and a catfish commerical fishery.
  • The five counties surrounding the lake estimated more than $117 million of freshwater fishing retail sales in 2000.
  • Pre-1900’s water quality was described as clear and alkaline, and bottom sediment was “clean sand.”
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Estero Bay

  • Florida’s first Aquatic Preserve, designated in 1966.
  • Designated as Outstanding Florida Waters because of exceptional ecological significance.
  • Rapid urbanization of the area requires special attention to runoff.
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Tourism, the Backbone of our Economy

  • Lee County tourism employs 1 out of every 5 people.
  • Approximately 5 million visitors a year spend over $3 billion.
  • 92% of these visitors claim to enjoy the beaches during their trip.
  • In 2016, 12% disliked the water quality, up from 5% in 2015.
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Harmful Events

  • Farm & urban runoff introduces nutrients into the watershed.
  • Nutrients exceed natural levels, promoting cyanobacteria growth.
  • Cyanobacteria become so abundant it consumes most of the available oxygen.
  • Fish and other aqutatic life suffocate; seagrass shrouded from light dies.
  • Bacteria and other pathogens become an increasing threat throughout our watershed.
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Cyanobacteria Health Risks

  • Cyanobacteria produce a number of cyanotoxins, each with unique risks.
  • Headaches, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and respiratory paralysis potentially leading to death are only a few of the health risks.
  • BMAA, produced by some cyanobacteria, is linked to Alzheimer’s, ALS, and Parkinson’s disease.
  • Even pets face risk, at least 58% of cyanotoxin poisoning proves fatal to dogs.
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Water Quality & Property Values

  • In 2015, Florida Realtors concluded that homebuyers consider algal blooms and water discharge events when making offers; recurring algal blooms distresses home prices.
  • A one-foot increase in water clarity increases Lee County property values by approx. $541 million.
  • Only single-family homes on or within easy walking distance of water bodies were considered; the effect on condominiums and other properties would prove equally significant.
  • This estimate is just a drop in the bucket compared to the overall economic impact of water quality on leisure, recreation, and marine industries in Lee County.

Our Priority Items

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Harmful Algal Blooms

Cyanobacteria & Red Tide

Cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) and Karenia brevis (red tide) have been making major impacts in Southwest Florida.

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Lake Okeechobee Discharges

Revise System Operating Manual

The Caloosahatchee River often suffers from too much freshwater in the wet season, and not enough freshwater in the dry season.

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C-43 Reservoir

Caloosahatchee Estuary

The C-43 Reservoir is a major CERP project designed to store and control water discharges to the Caloosahatchee estuary.

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Caloosahatchee Oxbows

History & Preservation

Calusa Waterkeeper has been working to monitor and preserve historic oxbows in the upper Caloosahatchee River.

 

Chiquita Lock

Cape Coral Spreader Canals

Nutrient & Sediment Loading

The City of Cape Coral is working to remove large storm-water barriers to make recreational boating more convenient.

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Bacteria Monitoring

Fecal Indicator Bacteria Contamination

Calusa Waterkeeper is at the forefront of monitoring Lee County tributaries for fecal indicator bacteria.

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