Blue-green algae bloom in Hancock Creek, a tributary to the Caloosahatchee River, North Fort Myers on July 2. Photo by Lee County
Blue-green algae bloom in Hancock Creek, a tributary to the Caloosahatchee River, North Fort Myers on July 2. Photo by Lee County

Florida Governor Rick Scott issued a State of Emergency Monday, July 9, in response to the algae blooms occurring in the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries. The order includes eight counties, including Lee of which Sanibel is a part.

Freshwater releases from Lake Okeechobee and stormwater runoff from the Caloosahatchee watershed are resulting in extensive blue-green algae blooms that are currently impacting more than 60 miles of the 75-mile Caloosahatchee River and Estuary.

The blue-green algae, also referred to as cyanobacteria, has been identified as Microcystis aeruginosa- a known toxin-producing species. These blooms have resulted in beach closures along the Caloosahatchee and have prompted the Florida Department of Health to post warnings to avoid contact with the algae.

The ongoing water quality problems associated with Lake Okeechobee releases and runoff from the Caloosahatchee watershed must be addressed immediately,” stated Sanibel Mayor Kevin Ruane. “This is critical for the health and safety of our coastal communities, to protect the ecology of our river and estuary, and to preserve our quality of life and local economy.”

The Sanibel City Council is asking for the public’s help in getting the federal, state and local governments to take swift action to address this important issue. “Please consider writing to your elected leaders and agency representatives to let them know how these water quality issues are impacting your quality of life,” Ruane stated.

For more information on City of Sanibel’s fight to improve water quality, click here. To read Gov. Scott’s Executive Order 18-191, click here.

The Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau has created a link for visitors and beachgoers to view Lee County beach cams, access other quick information and a statewide hotline (1-855-305-3903) has been established for the public to report issues with algae.

Below is contact information for Lee County Commissioner Cecil Pendergrass, along with specific requests and talking points:

Key Message 1: If the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency or the State of Florida do not restore funding for the Healthy Beaches Program, Lee County should restore program funding to ensure that all beaches previously sampled under the program continue to be sampled weekly.

  • Cuts to the Healthy Beaches Program will reduce bacteria sampling in Lee County from 15 sites to 9 sites and sampling frequency from weekly to bi-weekly.

  • The changes to the program will result in less information available to the public about the health and safety of Lee County beaches and will impact tourism.

  • The annual costs to maintain the current level of sampling are estimated at approximately $34,000 (approximately $63.00 per sample).

Contact:

Commissioner Cecil Pendergrass, Chairman

P.O. Box 398

Fort Myers, FL 33902-0398

Email: dist2@leegov.com