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Lake Okeechobee Water Release Discolors Sanibel Island Waters

The water along Sanibel Island is looking a little…mucky. Check out this image taken by the City from June 3 at high tide:

Normally, it looks like this image taken on May 31 at high tide:

Due to high water levels in Lake Okeechobee, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineering released some of the water through the Caloosahatchee River and in to the Gulf of Mexico  on June 1. The release happened because lake water levels were dangerously high after weeks of rain in Florida.

A couple days later, the discoloration of the water is visible from Sanibel to Fort Myers Beach, as shown in the images above.

“Water quality in Southwest Florida is our economy here. It’s what people live here for it’s what people visit here for,” Environmental Biologist with the City of Sanibel Holly Milbrandt said.

The color in the water comes from tannings that are organic compounds from leaf debris and other things that color the water brown, Milbrandt said.

Rickey Rowe of Fort Myers

However, they don’t have any evidence it’s not safe to get in the water in the current conditions. “Of course that’s a decision you should always make knowing your own medical history and tolerance,” she said.

The runs of discharge in to the Gulf of Mexico could last a while, due to the above average rainy conditions the forecast predicts, Milbrandt said.

For fishers, the runoff doesn’t have much of an impact on their sport or profession.

“We got a little bit of brown water out there but it ain’t bad though,” Rickey Rowe of Fort Myers who fishes at least once a week on Sanibel island, said. “As long as you can see the bait, it’s not bad.”

Chris Scoggins, another fisher on the island Tuesday, said the runoff could affect the oxygen levels in the ocean.

“All the dirty water sucks up the oxygen,” Scoggins said. “They’re dumping fresh water in the salt and it’s sucking up all the oxygen.”

Check out more 360 images from the City here .

Additional reporting by Bo Evans and Tianna Jenkins