Water Quality Issues

Water Quality Issues

Critical federal legislation which contains important funding for Everglades restoration projects continues to makes its way through this session of Congress. CCA Florida continues to support authorization and funding for the Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP). Federal funding for CEPP is included in the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2016. CCA members will recall CCA's communique from April of this year on this same legislation, and may also recall receiving a recent email explaining CEPP on August 4, 2016.
 
The fall Congressional session will be rather brief due to this year's election. Therefore, it is vital that CCA members contact their elected officials immediately urging their support for CEPP. Please call, write, or email Florida Senators Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson, along with your Congressional representative. Mailing addresses, phone numbers, and websites of Senators Rubio and Nelson are listed below for your reference, as is a sample email/letter. The easiest way to contact them is through their website and via email, but we encourage our members to write, email, and call their offices either in Florida or Washington, D.C.
 

Read more: Central Everglades Planning Project Update IMPORTANT!

The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) has proposed a plan which could bring near-term relief to Florida Bay. The District has applied for permits to make some rather minor changes to existing infrastructure in Miami-Dade County which, when complete, will provide additional clean fresh water to the headwaters of Taylor Slough, a primary source of fresh water to the Bay in Everglades National Park. The District estimates these projects could double the flows of fresh water to the slough and increase sheet flow to Florida Bay.

During an average year, Florida Bay gets 45% of its fresh water from rainfall. The balance comes primarily from Taylor Slough, so any projects which facilitate fresh water flows into the slough should provide strategic benefits to the Bay. Current salinity levels in the Bay are too high which have led to seagrass die-offs and other habitat degradation.

Read more: HELP MAY BE ON THE WAY FOR FLORIDA BAY

irl 1Florida's coastal estuaries are impacted in varying degrees from human population growth and coastal development impacts that compromise estuarine water quality and fisheries sustainability. CCA has previously addressed the impacts of fresh water releases from Lake Okeechobee and its impacts to coastal estuaries in southern Florida, including the southern Indian River Lagoon (IRL).  Therefore, this report will focus on other problems affecting the central and northern lagoon system.

For the greater Indian River Lagoon, the 2011-2013 "superbloom" and secondary brown tide bloom destroyed massive seagrass habitat.  The more recent 2016 brown tide bloom and fish mortality event in the Banana River gained national attention, further highlighting the need for a new approach to estuary conservation and stewardship in Florida.

The decline of Florida's estuarine water quality has persisted for far too long.  The current crisis in the IRL provides a historic opportunity for visionary, innovative, and effective leadership.  From the mid 1980's to 2007, seagrass coverage in the IRL expanded with general scientific consensus that ecosystem health was in stasis.  This occurred despite the fact that researchers who were studying water quality issues were discovering troubling nutrient levels, muck deposits, and even human pharmaceuticals in the water column.

Read more: The Indian River Lagoon

An Environmental Resource Permit (ERP) application has been submitted to the St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) for development of the 315 acre Webster Creek Mitigation Bank. Webster Creek Development (project applicant) and Bio-Tech Consulting, Inc. (project consultant) are proposing wetland restoration, enhancement and preservation at the bank in exchange for credits that will be sold off to developers from Jacksonville to Sebastian Inlet.
 
The project is located in southern New Smyrna Beach and is within Mosquito Lagoon (an Outstanding Florida Water) and the Mosquito Lagoon Aquatic Preserve.  According to the Prospectus report submitted with the ERP application, the goals of the project include, (1) elimination of conflicting land uses, (2) hydrologic restoration through filling ditches and the installation of ditch blocks, (3) herbicidal and/or mechanical control of nuisance/exotic plants and (4) the establishment of conservation easements over the mitigation bank lands.
 

Read more: 315 Acre Mitigation Bank Pending Approval in Mosquito Lagoon

On Tuesday, August 9th, CCA attended a Brevard County Commission meeting where a vote was taken by the commissioners to put a funding referendum option for the Save Our Lagoon Project Plan out to Brevard voters.  After more than 50 speakers voiced their opinions for over 4 hours supporting the referendum, the commissioners voted unanimously to put a half-cent sales tax for the Save Our Lagoon Project Plan on the November 8th ballot.  The half-cent sales tax, if approved by voters, will generate over $300 million over the next 10 years to help restore the lagoon.

Prior to the public speakers, the meeting commenced with Virginia Barker from Brevard County, Dr. John Windsor from Florida Institute of Technology, and consultants from Tetra Tech, Inc., and CloseWaters, LLC putting on a detailed presentation outlining the various components of the plan.  The Save Our Lagoon Project Plan proposes to accelerate several restoration measures over the next 10 years including muck removal, septic tank upgrades and removals, stormwater projects, wastewater treatment plant upgrades, fertilizer management, education, and oyster restoration projects.

Read more: LAGOON PLAN IN HANDS OF BREVARD VOTERS

The St. Lucie River Estuary is a complex living ecosystem, not a swimming pool that needs to be cleaned.

It is a natural soup of nutrients, minute organisms and thousands of interdependent species from microscopic algae and invisible crustaceans to very obvious manatees, sawfish and tarpon.

The mixture of nutrients and organisms makes this estuary function. Unfortunately, the majority of people living on this estuary cannot see the billions of organisms, large and small, that make it work to support all the life within it and along its banks.
Right now larval tarpon, tiny transparent eel-like fish, are migrating up the St. Lucie River to their nursery sites. You cannot see them, as even when you have them in a glass jar, they are nearly invisible. Yet larval tarpon morph in the St. Lucie River and grow into one of the largest game fish in Florida waters, esteemed by most anglers.

Read more: Grant Gilmore: Be careful — the wrong ‘fix’ could kill the St. Lucie Estuary

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