The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans to cut back on discharges from Lake Okeechobee beginning this weekend, ending months of polluted releases to the St. Lucie Estuary and returning to more normal flows down the Caloosahatchee River to the Gulf Coast.
The decision comes as red tide conditions worsen on the Gulf Coast, where dead fish have littered beaches and toxic levels of the algae have been detected from Sanibel to Marco Island.
Around Pine Island Sound, and the estuary at the mouth of the Caloosahatchee, polluted runoff nearly doubled, said John Cassani, director of Calusa Waterkeeper in Fort Myers.
“We’re seeing massive fish mortality right now. And I got a bad feeling marine mammals and sea turtles are not far behind,” Cassani said. “It’s just an awful, awful situation on the heels of a historic red tide event just two years ago. All these communities are trying to recover and it’s just creating insult after insult to these ecosystems.”