Southwest Florida has been feeling the effects of water releases from Lake Okeechobee for weeks now – most obviously in Cape Coral where the canal-based grid system of the city means many of its residents have backyards that dip down into the water, which is now filled with toxic blue-green algae.
So, the city invited the Army Corps of Engineers to come give a presentation at the Cape Coral Yacht Club Tuesday – where the only thing stronger than the stench of the water were the voices of the outraged citizens.
Tim Thompson carried a sign that read, “Don’t slime us."
"That’s what they’re doing," Thompson said. "I could use a word I don’t usually use, but what they’re doing is sliming on us. They’re doing other things to us too, but I wouldn’t say that.”
Thompson has lived in Southwest Florida for 31 years, but in spite of the handmade sign in his hands, he said he didn't consider himself an activist.
Many of the couple hundred people standing outside of the yacht club said the same – though the meeting inside was at its 500-person capacity, and outside, it was smelly, sticky and starting to storm.
S’iva Goodman and her 11-year-old daughter, Shelby, were both symbolically wearing surgical masks. Goodman said, rain or shine, they were sticking it out until the end because she had some words for the Army Corps of Engineers.
“It seems like they’re always telling us they’re repairing the dikes," she said, "but the levels never change as to how high the water levels can go.”
Goodman used to live in Stuart, which regularly experiences similar algae blooms from the releases sent down the St. Lucie River to the east coast of the state.
“There’s no worse over here than it is over there. It’s all bad," Goodman said. "But, the deterioration here is happening very rapidly, and people aren’t as educated. So, it’s worse here because people don’t know what’s going on.”
Turned out, the outcome of the meeting wouldn’t bring relief to either coast any time soon. The Army Corps of Engineers simply restated a stance familiar to Florida’s coastal communities: there’s nowhere else the water can go but east and west.