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Water quality remains concern despite improvement

By Staff | Feb 12, 2019

Water quality in the city’s canals is in the best shape it’s been in since last spring, Utilities Director John Pearson told Cape Coral City Council on Monday.

But that subject has remained a priority, especially given the news that blue-green algae was spotted this week at the Franklin Lock in the Caloosahatchee to the east.

Mayor Joe Coviello said this discovery is not good news, but is not worrisome now since it is not coming down the river into Cape Coral.

“We’re concerned for this summer, but the governor has attacked the water problems with the releases in Lake O. We’ve been getting releases between 800 and 1,000 cfs (cubic feet per second), which is what we want,” Coviello said. “The real question is what the water quality is inside the lake.”

Councilmember John Gunter asked Pearson about the effectiveness of the bubble curtains that were used to keep algae out of the canals during last summer’s crisis.

Pearson responded that a report was done on a similar pilot program in Key West, but no such study had been done here. He said the infrastructure is in place so when rainy season returns, everything can be plugged back in.

Pearson added that by the time the city was able to get the bubble curtains operational, the algae threat had passed.

“We hope this year we’ll have a better idea of its effectiveness. We hope we have no algae, though,” Pearson said. “We are working with Rep. Frances Rooney’s office to give them information because he’ll be advancing legislation to research that.”

Gunter suggested the city do a feasibility analysis and cost study on putting the curtains in at canal entry points on the river.

Coviello said water quality has improved in Bimini Basin since the pipe under the roadway was cleared and relined. He added the Army Corps of Engineers has increased the releases from Lake Okeechobee.

Coviello spoke at an Army Corps of Engineers public hearing on Feb. 5 about the need for the releases to increase immediately and got in the ear of Gov. Ron DeSantis and convinced him to speak with the Corps to have more water released in the dry season.

“We want to keep the water levels lower in dry season so we don’t have those huge releases during rainy season,” Coviello said, adding he has asked the Corps to host a meeting in the city by the end of March.

Helping also was DeSantis’ decision to change the makeup of the South Florida Water Management District governing board, which now will include Sanibel City Councilman Chauncey Goss.

“The old group had the agricultural industry’s interests at heart and they wouldn’t hear what we had to say,” Coviello said. “I believe the governor has the coastal communities and agriculture at heart, and I can’t think of a better person for that board than someone from Sanibel.”

These are among the temporary fixes the city is undergoing before the long-term ones, such as the R-43 Reservoir, go into effect.

“The projects at the lake will take three to five years. We need to find solutions now that minimize the risk of the algae coming down the river,” Coviello said.