Originally published by The News-Press on November 3, 2022 by Chad Gillis

The Lake Okeechobee drainage system is more likely to see a blue-green algal bloom next spring as a result of Hurricane Ian.

Lt. Col. Todd Polk, with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said Ian whipped up waters and stirred nutrients within the system, and that those nutrients could fuel a bloom.

That’s what happened in 2018, when nutrients in Lake Okeechobee were stirred up by Hurricane Irma (2017).

Those nutrients fed a bloom on the lake in the early summer of 2018. Soon after, a particularly strong blue-green algae bloom gripped the Fort Myers-Cape Coral area for months. Water flowed about 70 miles from the lake, down the Caloosahatchee and miles into the Gulf of Mexico.

Calusa Waterkeeper John Cassani said he expects future conditions will favor algal blooms, making them more frequent and longer-lasting.

“I think the trend for the winters is warmer and drier, and if that’s the case that will impact the natural system,” Cassani said.

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