SCCF announced this week that its RECON sensor network is being replaced and upgraded due to financial support from the public sector and through private donations. Sanibel Mayor Holly Smith and Lee County Commission Chairman Kevin Ruane were instrumental in securing funds.
So what exactly is RECON?
RECON short for River, Estuary, and Coastal Observing Network. It’s a network of eight optical water quality sensors deployed throughout the Caloosahatchee and the Pine Island Sound estuary to provide real-time water quality data to scientists, policy makers, and the general public.
Originally the sensors were expected to last 7 years however due to the exemplary maintenance program and “creative fixes,” the SCCF marine lab doubled that to 14 years. Now in 2021 replacement parts were no longer made and “We were looking at a $400,000 price tag to create a new sensor network monitoring water up the Caloosahatchee, through Pine Island Sound as far as North Captiva, and into the Gulf of Mexico as conditions warrant.” according to Marine Lab Director Eric Milbrandt.
The support from Mayor Smith and Chairman Ruane was swift and substantial according to SCCF CEO Ryan Orgera. “Mayor Smith shepherded a request through the Sanibel City Council for a $50,000 grant and Chairman Ruane secured $82,000 in support from Lee County.”
Former SCCF Board President Paul Roth and his wife Lucy, recognizing the significant contribution from the public sector, described their decision to donate $125,000.
Roth said, “It was important to us that our civic leaders knew private citizens also feel that RECON is essential for the ongoing monitoring and stewardship of our water quality.”
Their quiet philanthropy came to the attention of an anonymous donor as well as SCCF Board Vice President Deborah La Gorce. They respectively donated $100,000 and $41,000. La Gorce said she and her late husband John funded one of the original sensors in 2007 and it was important to their family to do it again. “The beauty of Sanibel and its surrounding waters have made this our family’s gathering place for three generations. It’s imperative that we protect it and I am forever grateful that the SCCF Marine Lab created a monitoring network to do just that. RECON truly is the lone guardian for our region when it comes to water quality monitoring.”
“RECON has been a real game-changer for our region,” said SCCF Environmental Policy Director James Evans. “Without its 24-7 data output on nutrients, dissolved oxygen, algae blooms, turbidity, and other indicators of our regional water quality, it would be impossible to advocate for science-based water management policies and regulations.”