Drone captures post-Ian tide of nutrient-laden stormwater from Caloosahatchee
The Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation uses a drone to take images of the water coming from the Caloosahatchee River, which moves along the eastern edge of Sanibel Island and winds around Lighthouse Point as it moves into the open Gulf of Mexico.
Drone images taken after Hurricane Ian show a crimson tide of nutrient-polluted water flowing from the Caloosahatchee River on its way to the Gulf of Mexico.
The Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation uses the drone to take images of the water coming from the Caloosahatchee River, which moves along the eastern edge of Sanibel Island and winds around Lighthouse Point as it moves into the open Gulf of Mexico.
SCCF has had a special focus on the amount of water that the Army Corps of Engineers releases into the Caloosahatchee River from Lake Okeechobee for years, due to the high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus and other pollutants from residential developments in the Kissimmee and Fort Myers areas, and corporate-sized agricultural fields in the lake’s watershed.
Many believe the Army Corps’ heavy releases of tons of lake water in 2018 into the Caloosahatchee River and through the W.P. Franklin Lock and Dam led to a massive red tide that hung around until 2019, wreaking havoc with the environment, discouraging tourism, and killing fish and manatees.
The drone’s pictures taken on Oct. 10, after the storm made landfall nearby on Sept. 28, show the maroon river water turning the crystal white-blue bay waters dark. Nobody is sure exactly which pollutants in what amounts were in the runoff, but darker water certainly blocks out sunlight, which in turn can kill the all-important seagrass meadows that provide a nursery for juvenile fishes and food for manatees.
SCCF, Calusa Waterkeeper and many other environmental groups in Southwest Florida have been working with the Army Corps to monitor the amount of water, or flow, that comes down the river.
However, these dark waters did not come from Lake Okeechobee.