Water-Related News

Caloosahatchee River, estuary relief may have to wait until 2022

The Caloosahatchee River is starved of freshwater at times, and it’s going to be another five years before the state can meet water quantity standards that were first adopted 16 years ago.

Scientists charged with formulating and approving a plan to help the ailing river met with the public in Fort Myers on Thursday to talk about freshwater flow levels for the Caloosahatchee and its estuary.

During the summer there is often too much freshwater flowing down the river, but during dry seasons — like this past one — the river can become too salty. The result is death of sea grasses and the base of the marine food chain.

Keeping that brackish balance is the reason the river needs a reservation, basically a law that would say no more water use permits can be issued once a certain amount of water has been allocated.

Save some water for the river, the thinking goes.

"It’s the point at which further withdrawals will cause significant harm to water resources or the ecology of an area," said Don Medellin, a coastal and marine scientist for the South Florida Water Management District. "It really focuses on surface and groundwater withdrawals."

A minimal flow level was set in 2001, but there was no time frame as to when those minimums would be established and maintained.

The answer to getting enough water for the river and its estuary, water managers say, is the Caloosahatchee Reservoir, also called C-43. This compound in Hendry County will hold about 55 billion gallons and will, by design, feed the Caloosahachee during drought conditions.