The US Army Corps of Engineers announced plans to begin pulse releases averaging 3,000 cubic feet per second from Lake Okeechobee to the Caloosahatchee River.
The announced comes four days into a pause of releases for what the Corps of engineers called an assessment period for water management.
Colonel Jason Kirk said it was an opportunity as well to get leaders at the federal level caught up on the issues surrounding the lake and corresponding waterways.
“This is such a critical issue, we also spent time explaining this critical issue to the Army Corps and leaders at the Pentagon,” Kirk said. “We take this very seriously.”
The US Army Corps of Engineers will conduct the releases in a pulse fashion, a day on and a day off, which scientists report helps give the river a break from the harmful nutrient-rich water going into the estuaries.
The decision by the USACE is based on concerns surrounding the Herbert Hoover Dike, which is now completely funded for its renovation to be done by 2022.
“It’s defending 36,000 people south of the lake at risk,” Kirk said, adding that flooding would not only endanger people and damage the homes, but it would also sit on the land surrounding the lake for weeks without proper draining.
Sanibel mayor Kevin Ruane spoke directly with the USACE as well as water management district leaders, pleading for a continued pause in east and west discharges to allow the estuary to recover from the blue-green algae currently spanning the entire 75-mile river.
“Lee County is being devastated by this,” Ruane said. “To get another 3,000 cubic feet per second is insane… Introducing [more] fresh water is going to do nothing but dilute that so we’re going to have no possibilities of getting rid of this blue-green algae.”
While Ruane called for an increase in flexibility from the USACE, the federal agency said they’re doing all they can for now to consider options.
Ruane concluded he’s not giving up hope, calling on other mayors, local leaders, and residents to join him in the fight to move water in other ways to avoid harming the estuary and sending algae toward the coastline.