It's not a simple problem, and changes won't happen overnight.
Ralph Woodring
Owner
The Bait Box
Ralph Woodring


Ralph Woodring 2

Ralph Woodring
Owner, The Bait Box
Lifetime Sanibel resident

Water quality in Tarpon Bay on Sanibel has improved in the last few years. However, past high-volume continuous freshwater releases from Lake Okeechobee imposed a significant negative impact on the area. Bare spots in sea grass beds have yet to recover from previous bouts with red tide and fresh water releases from Lake Okeechobee. Water becomes cloudy for days at a time when releases are underway. "When the water looks bad to the eye, it's not a good thing."

That's the picture that Ralph Woodring -- Sanibel native, lifelong fishermen, and owner of The Bait Box tackle shop -- paints of the problems he sees with water quality in the Sanibel area. The situation angers Ralph; and it's impacted his business, since the amount and quality of fishing in the area directly correlates to how much business he does. If fishing is mediocre, so is business. Visitors find other activities rather than return for another day of fishing. "As much as the situation hurts my pocketbook, it hurts much more in my heart," he says.

Although Ralph's business slow-down has suffered from the sluggish economy and dipping winter temperatures over which he has no control, he sees and takes opportunities to influence water quality issues. He urges area residents to do the same by exerting pressure on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACOE) and the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) to work toward Everglades restoration to achieve improved water quality throughout southwest Florida.

"In the past, they've taken into consideration how badly we were hurt," he says. "However, the reduced volume of releases down the Caloosahatchee for the past couple of years is attributed to the fact that during these years we did not experience significant rainfall."

Ralph continues to attend meetings of the USACOE, SFWMD, Board of County Commissioners and other agencies involved in water quality issues; and he praises local organizations that continue to push decision-makers regarding local water-related concerns. Water quality in our area hinges on Everglades restoration. This restoration requires major state and federal funding.

"We need to get their attention and keep hot on it. It's not just a small problem. It's a major problem that impacts tourism and fishing, and our quality of life," he says. "We're all in this fish bowl together; together we can save our precious resources."

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Stories From Your Neighbors

One way to truly understand the impact that freshwater releases from Lake Okeechobee are having on Lee County is to hear your neighbors’ experiences. Those who live on or near the Caloosahatchee River are really seeing the effects first-hand. Here are their stories.

Read Local Stories

Related Links

South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force:
http://www.sfrestore.org

South Florida Water Management District:
http://www.sfwmd.gov

More Links

Glossary

Phosphorus [P]:
An element or nutrient required for energy production in living organisms; distributed into the environment mostly as phosphates by agricultural runoff and life cycles; frequently the limiting factor for growth of microbes and plants.

Blue-Green Algae:
A type of algae natural to our area that blooms in the climatic and nutrient conditions it finds favorable.

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