Commissioner Curt Smith Updates Citizens On Recent Meeting Agenda Items
By Space Coast Daily // April 27, 2016
25th ANNIVERSARY OF BREVARD'S EEL PROGRAM
BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – The Brevard County Environmentally Endangered Lands (EEL) Program was established by referendum in 1990 with overwhelming voter support, and in 2004 voters reaffirmed their support through a second referendum- with 70 percent voting in favor.
Due to Brevard County’s unique geographical location between temperate and subtropical zones, EEL nature sanctuaries protect over 21 different habitats, 130 threatened or endangered plants and animal species, and consists of over 24,000 acres of conservation lands for the long-term preservation of biological diversity and the future enjoyment by citizens and visitors to Brevard County.
Through the EEL Program Brevard County has created the Land Management and Environmental Education Centers that, in 2015, served over 85,000 citizens, school children, and visitors who all play an important role in promoting and supporting ecotourism in our county.
In 2015 an additional 32,000 visitors hiked, biked, paddled, or rode horses on the over 62 miles of recreational trails on EEL managed nature sanctuaries, and 281 volunteers gave over 14,000 hours of their time to assist in carrying out the EEL Program mission and vision.
The nature sanctuaries preserved through the EEL Program play an important role in restoring groundwater to our aquifer, offsetting carbon dioxide accumulation in the atmosphere, providing more surface water protection, increasing nutrient filtration, supplying stormwater control, and providing wildfire protection to our communities.
Through the EEL Program over 32 miles of the Indian River Lagoon shoreline and its tributaries within its watershed have been protected, and it has helped us manage to improve both water quality and lagoon biodiversity.
This network of nature sanctuaries, environmental education centers, and nature-based public recreation opportunities have become a cherished part of our local communities that help make Brevard County a great place to live, work, and raise children. I would like to offer a huge congratulations to Brevard County’s own EEL Program on their 25th Anniversary.
FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION GRANT FOR MUCK REMOVAL
At the April 19 Board Meeting the Board unanimously approved a cost-share agreement for the source reduction and legacy load remediation of muck in the Indian River Lagoon. This funding will come from the General Appropriations Act, which means that it was already in the State budget for us.
As a result, Brevard County will receive $800,000 in grant funding from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to help cleanup and restore our precious lagoon. The purpose of the funding is to reduce muck sources and prioritize the removal of legacy muck from the lagoon and its watershed.
‘Muck’ is an excessive accumulation of fine-grained, organically rich sediment, that has a mayonnaise-like consistency and is full of smelly, rotting organisms that load the water with harmful contaminants. It has smothered the healthy, sandy sediments that sustain seagrass growth, preventing seagrass success and mechanisms for recovery, and eliminating the ability of seagrass beds to provide critical ecosystem support services.
Detrimental muck, accumulated over decades, is negatively impacting the health and natural resilience of our Indian River Lagoon.
This grant will help to fund the harvest and removal of muck-building, noxious aquatic weeds upstream of the Lagoon, characterize sediment toxicity in the two most muck-laden sub-basins of the Lagoon in Brevard County, and produce contaminant level maps for prioritizing future muck dredging projects.
It will also assist in Brevard County’s efforts to meet the Federal and State Total Maximum Daily Load reduction mandates for the Indian River Lagoon, which is essentially a number that the Federal and State Government use to track how much pollution goes into the Lagoon. The projects that this grant will allow us to complete will help us meet their requirements for the amount of pollution that can be present.
All in all this grant is a win-win for our County, its citizens, the Indian River Lagoon, and for our local environment as a whole. The only down-side?- The Lagoon most likely will need 10-20 times that amount of consistent funding over a period of about 20 years before it will be healthy again.
PERMISSION TO ADVERTISE WICKHAM PARK PEDWAY CONSTRUCTION
The Board received a request from Parks & Recreation to authorize the advertisement of a public hearing in order to determine whether it is in the public’s best interest for the Brevard County Public Works Department (Roads & Bridge) to perform the services necessary for the construction of the pedway in Wickham Park.
The pedway project is specified as a project funded by the voter-approved Parks Referendum for Wickham Park improvements. In other words, it can’t be spent for any other purpose other than to improve Wickham Park in some way.
The purpose of the project is to alleviate recreational and safety concerns, specifically with regards to park visitors not having a place to walk, run, or bike that is away from thru-traffic at the park. Both the design and cost estimates were completed, and all regulatory permits were received.
Based on these estimates, it was determined that Public Works can perform the services at a substantial savings of $46,057, which would allow the Parks & Rec. Department to proceed with the project with the current available funding.
Commissioner Trudie Infantini disagreed and attempted to delay the approval of the hearing. Her argument was that we should be considering prioritizing Parks & Rec. projects for the funds, such as putting shading over the playgrounds at the park, before we go ahead with the hearing.
I suggested, as a next step after this project, that the county should begin considering how we could systematically begin adding shade canopies at park playgrounds that don’t have them. If we can somehow figure out how to make that project happen as well, ultimately everybody wins.
The Board voted 4-1, with Commissioner Infantini against, to approve the public hearing for the Pedway Project. Due to Florida Statutes, we must have the public hearing and then another vote before the project can begin.
If you would like to view the agenda, minutes, or video of past Board of County Commissioners Meetings, click here.
ABOUT CURT SMITH, Brevard County District 4 Commissioner
Smith was elected to the Brevard County Commission in November of 2014 with 63 percent of the vote. He ran as a fiscal conservative coming from the private sector with 40 years of small business, entrepreneurial experience. This was his first venture into the world of politics.
Smith and his wife Linda owned and operated a Maaco Autopainting franchise in Melbourne for almost 27 years before retiring at the end of 2013. He grew up in a little town in southern New Jersey on the Delaware River called Pennsville. This is where he developed his deep love of nature and for being on and in the water of the river he loved. He also credits this area, just south of Philadelphia, with his deep love of God and country. The Delaware Valley is often called the cradle of Liberty.
Smith has always been civic minded. Some of his many associations in Brevard County include Board of Directors of Friends of Sally’s House and Prevent as well as supporting Brevard Little League Teams, Habitat for Humanity, Making Strides Against Breast Cancer, Candlelighters, Animal Services, and supporting efforts to restore the Indian River Lagoon.
Curt and his wife Linda have been residents of Melbourne since 1986. They have one daughter and three grandchildren.
To contact Curt Smith e-mail D4.Commissioner@brevardcounty.us or call 321-633-2044.