We are Having Trouble Tracking Down the Nature and Results of Lagoon Related Projects

Sebastian_Inlet

Sebastian Inlet

WE ARE HAVING DIFFICULTY TRACKING DOWN THE NATURE AND RESULTS OF LAGOON RELATED PROJECTS, including the $ 36 million in spending for 18 Indian River Lagoon water cleanup efforts approved in Florida’s 2015-2016 state budget, as reported by Representative Debbie Mayfield in her July 2, 2015 “Mayfield Minute.”

This article essentially concerns two projects.

One is who is using the real-time water sampling and quality monitoring data from the $2 million grant awards to the Florida Atlantic University/ Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute (HBOI) and the Ocean Research and Conservation Association (ORCA).

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) funded development and deployment of ORCA’s Kilroy systems to collect real-time pollution data on the Indian River Lagoon and our canals.  Although different in design, it also funded development of HBOI’s LOBO system to essentially collect the same data.

Who is using the data, how are they using it and have there been any measurable results?

According to a representative at ORCA, they are focused on providing a service – by making the data available. But ORCA does not decide what to do with the data or how it is to be used; other than having their scientists making their best determination of where to position them (Kilroys) to obtain data (leapfrogging in canals); but they do not “act” on the data.

We also contacted HBOI to find out who is using their data, but received no reply.  Does that mean they don’t know?

ORCA referred us to FDEP to ascertain who is and how are they using the data (since FPED provided the funding for the project.)

Representative Mayfield’s office also referred us to FDEP.

FDEP advised us that: “Through the efforts of Harbor Branch and ORCA we’ll gain a better understanding of water quality in the area – the variables impacting these systems and, hopefully, strengthen our ability to detect ecological issues before they take hold.”

Then we replied to ask how the data will “strengthen our (your) ability to detect ecological issues before they take hold?” We received no response.  Maybe they too don’t know.

The only answer we have found as to how the data is being used is from a Indian River State College professor who said he uses the data to determine when the water quality is appropriate to go water skiing.

ANOTHER PROJECT WE RESEARCHED is one of the 18 projects where $ 2,750,000 was allocated to the St. John’s River Water Management District (SJRWMD).

SJRWMD was kind enough to respond to our inquiry about this project, as follows:

“The $2,750,000 referenced in Rep. Mayfield’s column is a state appropriation from the Land Acquisitions Trust Fund. The District has not yet determined how this money will be used, but will be making that decision in the near future.”

According to a blog post by Ryan Stoa on May 14, 2015:

“Last November 75% of Florida voters supported Constitutional Amendment 1, the Florida Land and Water Conservation Initiative. The amendment was designed to ensure that at least one-third of existing documentary excise tax revenues would be allocated to the Land Acquisition Trust Fund. The Fund, in turn, would be used to promote conservation and natural resources, primarily through the acquisition of lands for conservation.

Budgets in both the House and Senate propose spending conservation funding on existing operational costs. The House budget proposal includes funds for staff salaries and firefighting equipment, while the Senate budget funds new patrol vehicles and fish farming regulations. Supporters of the amendment claim those expenses aren’t permitted:

“I don’t think the words ‘Land Acquisition Trust Fund’ could be any more clear,” said Will Abberger, chairman of Florida’s Water and Land Legacy, the committee that sponsored the amendment. “It’s not the ‘land management trust fund.’ It’s not the ‘existing agencies operations trust fund.’ It’s the Land Acquisition Trust Fund.”

Here is a link to Mr. Stoa’s blog regarding this subject:

http://ryanstoa.com/blog/2015/5/14/does-floridas-land-acquisition-trust-fund-really-require-land-acquisition

Ryan Stoa

Image by Ryan Stoa

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