While the Vero Beach, FL City Council Voted Not to Have Any Further Consideration on Charging Residents a $ 5.00 Monthly Fee to Protect the Indian River Lagoon, Brevard County Residents Overwhelmingly Voted for a Half Cent Sales Tax to Fund Clean-up Projects.

Brevard

NEARLY HALF OF THE INDIAN RIVER LAGOON’S (IRL) 156 MILE LENGTH AND NEARLY 3/4 OF ITS AREA ARE WITHIN BEVARD COUNTY.  IRL IS ONE OF THE LONGEST BARRIER ISLAND COMPLEXES IN THE U.S., OCCUPYING MORE THAN 30% OF FLORIDA’S EAST COAST. 

On February 7, 2017, Vero Beach City Council, with a three to two majority, voted to decline any further consideration of funding a Stormwater Utility and impose City residents a $ 5.00 monthly fee for a strictly specified time; to raise money to protect the Lagoon from toxins and other harmful chemicals running off parking lots, roadways and impervious surfaces.

But on November 12, 2016 Brevard County residents overwhelming voted (62%) to approve a a resolution for a half cent sales tax, which is expected to raise roughlty over $ 34 million a year for a decade, representing roughly a total $ 340,000,000, to fund IRL clean-up projects.  The vote was 190,404 to 115,010

The tax went into effect on January 1, 2017.

The initiative, called “Save Our Lagoon Project Plan” proposes a series of projects over the next 10 years to remove muck, fund stormwater projects, upgrade wastewater treatment facilities, remove and upgrade septic systems, manage fertilizer usage,  initiate oyster reef projects and provide public education.

Muck is rotted plant matter, clays and soils from construction sites, blocking sunlight to seagrass and contributes to bacterial decay, which consumes oxygen in the water, causing fish kills.

Over five decades, the Florida Institute if Technology estimated 5 million to 7 million cubic yards of muck have built up in the Brevard and Indian River County’s portion of the IRL. Scientists said that’s enough muck to cover a football field 1,000 yards high.

 

Brevard2

In addition to the build-up of the muck, in the spring of 2016 the IRL in Brevards County experienced algae blooms, brown tide, and massive fish kills blamed on brown algal blooms.

This fueled the  “Save Our Lagoon Project Plan.”

Algae blooms are the result of an excess of nutrients, particularly phosphates and nitrogen.  When phosphates and nitrogen are introduced into water systems, higher concentrations cause increased growth of algae.

Algae tend to grow very quickly under high nutrient availability, but each alga is short-lived, and results in a high concentration of dead organic matter, which starts to decay. The decay process consumes dissolved oxygen in the water causing animals and plants to die off in large numbers.

Last spring, Zack Jud, Ph.D., the Director of Education and Exhibits with the Florida Oceanographic Society in Hutchinson Island said the massive fish fills could move south.

He said the news of dead fish in Brevard County is “nauseating,” and is extremely concerned for the waterways and wildlife there.

According to Mr. Jud, the fish kill spread thirty miles across the Banana River and killed off at least fifty species of fish.

He added that what’s happening in Brevard County is an “environmental and economic catastrophe” because if the fish don’t come back, it could push residents and businesses out of the area.

It could also kill off other animals that rely on those fish as a food source.

“The fish kill that happened 70 miles to our north, is really right on our doorstep,” he said. “That fish kill could spread as far south as Stuart.”

The Save the Lagoon Plan estimates a $2.01 billion positive economic impact from restoration of the lagoon.

This compares to $4.29 billion in damages if the lagoon is not brought back to health during the next decade.  The Plan focused on three areas of economic impact: tourism and recreation, property values and commercial fishing.

Forty-two projects designed to help clean up the Indian River Lagoon were unanimously approved on March 7, 2017 by the Brevard County Commissioners, allocating a total of $25.87 million to those projects from the special half-cent-per-dollar sales tax. The total cost of these projects is $68.77 million, and the rest of the money would come from other funding sources.

According to Dave Berman of Florida Today, “In all, the 42 projects will reduce nitrogen going into the lagoon by 96,956 pounds a year and will reduce the phosphorous going into the lagoon by 10,109 pounds a year”

Approved projects

These are the 42 projects approved by Brevard County commissioners, along with the amount of Save Our Indian River Lagoon money allocated. They are listed under the entity that submitted the funding request:

Brevard County

Grand Canal muck dredging, $10 million

Sykes Creek muck dredging, $10 million

Mims muck removal, outflow water nutrient removal, $400,000

Kingsmill-Aurora phase two stormwater project, $367,488

Denitrification retrofit of Johns Road Pond, $105,512

Denitrification retrofit of Huntington Pond, $104,720

L1 Canal bank stabilization stormwater project, $87,560

Denitrification retrofit of Flounder Creek Pond, $75,328

Brevard County Parks Department

Long Point Park upgrade $101,854

Cape Canaveral

Central Boulevard baffle box, $34,700

International Drive baffle box, $34,700

Center Street baffle box, $26,136

Angel Isles baffle box, $11,528

Holman Road baffle box, $6,248

Carver Cove swale, $2,816

Cape Shores swales $2,746

Hitching Post berms $2,552

Cherie Down Park swale $2,376

Cocoa Palms stormwater project, $1,144

Justamere Road swale $528

Cocoa

Church Street type II baffle box, $20,856

Indian Harbour Beach

Gleason Park reuse $4,224

Melbourne

Cliff Creek baffle box $347,781

Thrush Drive baffle box $322,200

NASA Boulevard pond retrofit $96,532

Hoag sewer conversion $86,031

Penwood sewer conversion $40,632

Stewart Road dry retrofit $18,344

General Aviation Drive retrofit $13,937

Airport Boulevard dry retrofit $8,718

Merritt Island Redevelopment Agency

Merritt Island septic phase-out $320,000

Palm Bay

Norwood baffle box retrofit $143,528

Turkey Creek shoreline restoration $113,500

Goode Pond $69,872

Bayfront stormwater project, $30,624

Victoria Pond $23,486

Florin Pond $6,600

Rockledge

Breeze Swept septic-to-sewer connection, $880,530

Sebastian Inlet Marina

Micco sewer line extension, $1,391,316

Titusville

St. Teresa basin treatment stormwater project, $272,800

La Paloma basin treatment stormwater project, $208,296

South Street basin treatment stormwater project, $86,856

Source: Brevard County Natural Resources Management Department

 

 

3 thoughts on “While the Vero Beach, FL City Council Voted Not to Have Any Further Consideration on Charging Residents a $ 5.00 Monthly Fee to Protect the Indian River Lagoon, Brevard County Residents Overwhelmingly Voted for a Half Cent Sales Tax to Fund Clean-up Projects.

  1. Vero Beach City Council is going to regret the decision to pass on the plan to transfer stormwater costs to ratepayers (i.e. users of the system) in the form of a fee. Presently the cost is socialized, and paid by general taxes.

    The fee-based approach is different than a tax: it provides a price signal–and incentive–for users to mitigate impacts onthe system, or opt-out entirely. Private individuals, businesses, and institutions that opt-out through mitigation effectively “privatize” a portion of the comprehensive stormwater system.

    A tax, on the other hand, is fixed.

    Second, the multi-year enterprise structure enable longer-range, and more rational planning and decision-making. At present, City officials cannot even rely on receiving funds that are in an approved budget, as budget funds may be– and are–raided for other purposes, without warning.

    Most recently, $340,000 of stormwater grants awarded to the City had to be returned for lack of City matching funds that were raided. City staff work vey hard to bring in grants, and it must be very demoralizing for them to see their efforts ham-stung by the Council.

    This unpredictability, and lack of demonstrated commitment to stormwater also makes it very difficult to win future grants, which can effectively supply up to 70% more money in matches. However, grantors are looking for a reliable partner with stable, longer-range funding.

    Unless or until the City Council reverses it’s decision on structured stormwater funding, they will not be viewed as a reliable partner, and the taxpayers will continue to pay “full boat.”

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  2. Pingback: Part Two: The Five Reporting Regions of the Indian River, FL Lagoon | Vero Communiqué

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