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Sea grass beds in danger from Lake O releases

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Sea grass beds in danger from Lake O releases

By Warren Wright. CREATED Aug 7, 2013

FORT MYERS, Fla.- A huge amount of water coming out of Lake Okeechobee now could spell big trouble for manatees this winter. 

The large amounts of fresh water pouring out of Lake Okeechobee are creating perfect conditions for algae blooms, according to environmentalists.
 
Some canals in Cape Coral are starting to show algae, carpeting the water way.
 
For now its going out with the tide, but it has some people very concerned for the local wildlife, especially manatees.
 
Victoria Memszak, with the Caloosa Nature Center, says "the Okeechobee releases are definitely having an impact on the seagrasses and the manatee environment."
 
Manatees feed off the local sea grass beds but there might not be much of anything left for manatees to eat this coming winter.
 
She says when you start getting algae blooms along with the already dark water coming out of the lake,  its a recipe for disaster:
 
She adds that seagrasses require a large amount of sunlight- more so than any other aquatic vegetation. So its really vulnerable."
 
According to Lee County Natural Resource's division...conditions could get worse for the sea grass beds.
 
Steve Boutelle with the county explains that "history suggests theres going to be more discharges coming from the lake."
 
Lake Okeechobee is at 16 feet right now... thats 4 feet above last year.
 
Currently, the Franklin Lock is pouring out 5590 cubic feet per second into the Caloosahatchee right now.
 
Local scientists fear these numbers could add up to trouble for manatees and all the other animals that seek shelter in the local estuary.
 
Boutelle explains that "if in fact we've had major impacts to the sea grass beds in the
Caloosahatchee... they are going to have a long way to go before they can find something to eat."
 
Sanibel Island is reporting up to 10 inches of dead sea grass washing up onto the shore around Lighthouse beach.  

Experts claim you typically see something like this in the winter time, not during the summer. 

Warren Wright

Warren Wright

Warren Wright

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Warren Wright is a video journalist for FOX 4.