Fluctuating blue, brown water on Fort Myers Beach the norm for coming months
There are freshwater catfish near Sanibel and the Causeway.
Rae Ann Wessel, Director of Policy for the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation, said it's a side effect from the freshwater releases from Lake Okeechobee following the heavy rainfalls of the past two months.
"Normally they're 30 miles away up river," Wessel said. "We wouldn't even see them at the 41 bridges. But they're finding new homes because they can."
As bottom feeders, the catfish could have been washed out to sea by the releases, but they're staying alive in an environment that should be too salty for them.
Lake Okeechobee was measuring at 17 feet last week, the highest it's been since 2005. Typically, the lake should be between 12.5 and 15.5 feet deep, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer's policy. But the copious influx of rain and runoff into the lake has had it on the rise.
The water has to go somewhere - so the Corps has been releasing freshwater down the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee. Southern releases have been restricted to avoid flooding the communities there, and much of the southern storage areas are already full, Wessel said. On Monday, Oct. 9, the Caloosahatchee was receiving an average of 13,800 cubic feet per second at the Franklin lock that is 33 miles up stream - five times the recommended harm threshold of 2,800 cubic feet per second.Wessel said it could take years to fully understand the detrimental effects the sheer amount of releases has had on the local ecology.