blue green algae

Rachel Iacovone / WGCU

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. 

Rachel Iacovone / WGCU

U.S. Senator Bill Nelson took to the Senate floor Wednesday to discuss the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' approval of a new reservoir to go south of Lake Okeechobee.

Rachel Iacovone / WGCU

As of Monday morning, the Army Corps of Engineers had halted releases of water from Lake Okeechobee to the west coast. This came after the decision to stop sending water toward the east coast late last month. Still, the persistent blue-green algae bloom brought Gov. Rick Scott to Southwest Florida for a firsthand look.

Tom James -

The Florida Department of Health in Lee County recently issued a health advisory for the Alva Boat Ramp, Davis Boat Ramp, and Franklin Locks after water sampling found the presence of Cyanobacteria, commonly known as blue-green algae, which can cause gastrointestinal effects if swallowed. The large algae bloom was first reported in the area about two weeks ago, about two weeks after the first high volume releases of nutrient-rich freshwater began flowing out of Lake Okeechobee. The algae bloom continues moving west toward Fort Myers, and the estuaries. At the same time, a large red tide bloom persists off the coast, with numerous reports of dead fish and other marine wildlife. This kind of news has become an annual trend in southwest Florida, as water managers work to keep the water level in Lake Okeechobee at safe levels.

We’re joined by three men who are advocates for finding solutions to this perennial issue. John Cassani with Calusa Waterkeeper, Chris Wittman with Captains for Clean Water, and Peter Girard with Bullsugar, a non-profit started in 2014 in Stuart, Florida that focuses its message on the need to acquire land from sugar farmers south of the lake in order to store, and clean more water before sending it along to Florida Bay.


Photo: EPA via Wikimedia Commons

The ACLU of Florida has wrapped up a months-long investigation into how the state handled last year’s toxic algal blooms; the result of discharges from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers. The nonprofit civil liberties organization alleges the state failed its residents in how it responded to those discharges.