Save Our Indian River Lagoon Program Reaches Historic Milestone After Completing 50 Restoration Projects
By Space Coast Daily // December 3, 2021
Rep. Thad Altman: There is no community in this country that has stepped up so much
BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – Five years after Brevard County voters approved a half-cent sales tax to clean up the Indian River Lagoon, county, state, and municipal officials have officially marked the completion of the 50th restoration project and announced another 50-plus project already under contract with more in the pipeline for the year ahead.
“It’s time to celebrate how much has been completed already,” said Virginia Barker, director of Brevard County Natural Resources Management.
Barker was recently joined by state Rep. Thad Altman, Melbourne Mayor Paul Alfrey, Melbourne City Council members, representatives from other state and local government offices and supporters of the Save Our Indian River Lagoon program for a ribbon-cutting ceremony that recognized the official completion of the $2.6 million Sherwood Park Stormwater Project in Melbourne.
Altman recognized the project as an achievement in government collaboration. The project was accomplished by “many people working together to change this lagoon system back to where it used to be,” he said.
“There is no community in this country that has stepped up so much.”
Kelli Lane, the legislative assistant for state Sen. Debbie Mayfield, echoed Altman’s sentiments. Mayfield championed Senate Bill 712, the Clean Waterways Act in 2020, which was aimed at minimizing the impact of known sources of nutrient pollution, realigning the state’s resources to enhance the protection of Florida’s environment, and strengthening regulatory requirements.
“I am thrilled that the Florida Department of Environmental Protection supported this great stormwater project,” Lane said, reading from a prepared statement from the senator.
“We have made great strides in renewing the lagoon back to where it once was but more work needs to happen.”
The Sherwood Park Stormwater Project consisted of wet retention/detention ponds, rain gardens, and a baffle box, and was completed through a partnership with multiple agencies and funding from the City of Melbourne Stormwater Utility, $1.8 million/
Save Our Indian River Lagoon (SOIRL) half-cent sales tax trust fund, $392,108; the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, $400,000; and Space Coast Association of Realtors, $25,000.
The Sherwood Park sub-basin discharges to the Indian River Lagoon via Otter Creek.
The stormwater project incorporates a baffle box, ponds, and rain gardens, and is anticipated to yield a total nitrogen reduction into the lagoon of 3,214 pounds per year and total phosphorus by about 879 pounds per year.
High levels of nitrogen and phosphorous that leak from septic tanks or other sources of pollutants can deplete oxygen levels in the river and cause algae blooms that kill seagrasses.
The SOIRL Citizen Oversight Committee notified the City that the Sherwood Park Water Quality project was eligible to receive funding from the SOIRL trust fund in the amount of $392,108.
The Save Our Indian River Lagoon Project Cost-Share Funding Interlocal Agreement between Brevard County and the City of Melbourne was approved by City Council in July 2020.
Alfrey said he grew up in the neighborhood.
“This was an amazing project,” Alfrey said. “Never in my mind did I think water quality would be as important as it is today.”
In 2016, Brevard County voters passed a half-cent sales tax to benefit lagoon health and restoration from Mims to Micco, and including the mainland, Merritt Island, and the Barrier Island.
The SOIRL Program prioritizes and implements projects to improve the health, productivity, aesthetic appeal, and economic value of the lagoon.
Projects are designed to reduce pollution and nutrient loading to the lagoon, remove accumulated muck, restore key points of the lagoon ecosystem and respond to changing conditions and information.
The SOIRL program is removing and preventing millions of pounds of nutrients from entering the lagoon by uniting the efforts of county residents, businesses, organizations, and the government to “Save Our Lagoon.”
“Every dollar invested in the restoration of the Indian River Lagoon is an investment in the future of Brevard County not only from an environmental and economic standpoint, but in our quality of life for those who enjoy all the lagoon has to offer, to the living organisms that depend on it to survive, and for those who depend on it for recreational activities, their livelihoods and who just appreciate the pure scenic beauty it brings to our County,” said Keith Alward, legislative aide to Brevard County District 4 Commissioner Curt Smith.
Since its inception, SOIRL projects have included 43 septic upgrades, septic tanks (32 quick connects and 360 through septic to sewer projects,) and shoreline protection that includes 27,290 square feet with oysters and 3,753 linear feet of planted vegetation.
For more information about the SOIRL Program: BrevardFL.gov/SaveOurLagoon
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