Cape looks to spend $1 million to combat blue-green algae
Gov. DeSantis visits W.P. Franklin Lock in Alva
The potential for another blue-green algae bloom has state and local officials taking action — and spending money.
Cape Coral Mayor John Gunter called for a special meeting for next Wednesday to discuss possibly spending $1 million on prevention measures.
Gov. Ron DeSantis, meanwhile, visited Lee County on Thursday, stopping at the W.P. Franklin Lock and Dam to receive a briefing on a technology treatment being deployed in the Caloosahatchee River to combat blue-green algal blooms.
That treatment is being performed by BlueGreen Water Technologies, a leading Israeli algae mitigation company.
DeSantis said he has directed the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and South Florida Water Management District to continue to actively assess and address critical blue-green algal conditions in South Florida while expediting large-scale Everglades projects.
“I have directed all of my state agencies to take an ‘all hands on deck’ approach to improve water quality and address active algal blooms,” DeSantis said. “In addition to deploying innovative technologies, at my direction, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the South Florida Water Management District continue to prioritize expediting crucial Everglades and water quality projects including the EAA Reservoir, Caloosahatchee (C-43) and C-44 Reservoirs and other key projects to reduce harmful discharges and send water south.”
Cape Coral City Council will meet Wednesday at 3 p.m., immediately before its regular meeting, to give City Manager Rob Hernandez direction on how to go about addressing the potential threat.
Mike Ilczyszyn, public works manager, and Maya Robert, environmental resource manager, gave the council a presentation about the threat blue-green algae poses on the city, its water and the residents.
Blue-green algae not only makes the water toxic, but the smell and the toxins it produces in the air can make people sick, even if they don’t live on a canal.
The city has already taken steps, such as republishing the web page it posted on algae during the last major bloom in 2018 and provided weekly reports on Lake Okeechobee, said to be the main cause of blue-green algae with its releases into the Caloosahatchee River.
The city also has identified areas where algae could potentially grow. Staff has zoned the city so that the areas that have the least saline in the water (which tend to be more inland) are considered at the highest risk.
Staff also has identified areas where they could potentially place “bubble curtains,” which seemed to work well three years ago when one was placed on Mandolin Canal.
The Plato, Lito and Chauncey canals were considered the waterways that could produce the most impact through the curtains.
Bubble curtains use a series of diffusers at the bottom of the canal to create a wall of bubbles that algae cannot penetrate. However, they are not cheap. New curtains cost up to $75,000. Buying three new curtains and activating the Mandolin curtain at $25,000 could cost the city $250,000.
Ilczyszyn suggested the city make a bigger investment, as it has allocated $1 million on water quality issues. He wanted council to authorize Hernandez to purchase mitigation and remediation technologies for up to $1 million.
The idea was for the city to buy 10 new curtains for the most at-risk areas and use the rest for other remediation efforts.
Councilmember Gloria Tate said she wants the city to jump on this promptly.
“I want to be prepared. Let’s authorize what we can. We did all this in 2018 after the fact,” Tate said.
That year, the city used multiple methods to try to solve the problem within Cape canals. Some worked, some didn’t, and others were too time and resource consuming.
They were also reactive measures after the fact.
Councilmember Robert Welsh said the city was being too proactive.
I don’t want to invest in something that does not work or that we don’t need,” Welsh said. “I can see us buying three, but not 10.”
Hernandez said there was a risk involved and that there aren’t many tools in the box that they can use. However, facing the squeeze of time with summer hiatus on the horizon, somethings had to be done.
Gunter suggested a special meeting as soon as possible to vote on the issue. The motion passed unanimously.
Even if there is a quick approval, it will take as many as six weeks to get the bubble curtains and as late as the end of August to get them running.
“We directed staff to bring additional information back to see how those devices work, what the actual cost would be, and then collectively have the discussion to see how many we’ll get, three or 10,” Gunter said.