Hi all and a belated happy new year! The Clean Water Coalition has emerged from the holiday season energized and focused on achieving our goal of restoring the Indian River Lagoon and ensuring a clean, plentiful drinking water supply for our entire region. We welcome you all to get involved in our shared mission. And, as always, donations are gratefully accepted.
Here are some of the initiatives we are working on in 2023:
EXPEDITING THE REMOVAL OF DERELICT BOATS
For years, abandoned and sunken boats have created eyesores and pollution problems in the Indian River Lagoon. Not only are they an ugly blight on the marine scape, but they also pose a hazard to navigation and discharge raw sewage, fuel, and other pollutants into our waters. Currently, up to four vessels are reported sunken in the lagoon near Vero Beach, and several others appear to be at risk.
CWC Board member Keith Drewett, vice-chair of the city of Vero Beach Marine Commission, is working with city, county and state officials to expedite the process of identifying, citing and removing these problem vessels and preventing future visiting mariners from using the lagoon as a dumping ground.
Drewett says new rules promulgated by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission--the state agency that funds removal of derelict vessels--give local jurisdictions expanded powers to clean up their waterways.
"Let's pick up these tools and use them," Drewett said.
Among those tools:
implementation of an "anchoring limitation area" in lagoon waters where vessels that overstay a 45-day limit would be subject to removal;
expediting the process of removing vessels that are creating a public nuisance and at risk of sinking before they actually sink. (Removing vessels that are still floating is a much less costly process than disposing of sunken craft.)
stepping up marine patrols in local waters to issue citations --not merely warnings-- to boaters discharging human waste into the lagoon;
encouraging boat owners who can not maintain their vessels to turn them over to the state wildlife commission for disposal--free of charge.
"We should be taking care of what it is our backyard," Drewett said.
COLD BIOBLITZ FOR RIVER KIDZ
Some hardy members of IRC River Kidz--Pelican Island Audubon Society's nature club--braved one of the coldest days of the season earlier this month to identify and record plant and animal species at Sebastian Stormwater Park. Known as a "BioBlitz", and led by CWC board member Donna Halleran, the one-day event introduced the kids to citizen science opportunities using the versatile iNaturalist app which allowed them to share their wildlife observations with their community and the rest of the world.
Due to the cold weather, the young scientists observed mostly invertebrates; birds and reptiles were scarce that day. But they did record a pair of mottled ducks and an osprey.
Halleran says it is important for kids to practice identifying the flora and fauna around them. To know is to love, and we can not expect the next generation to love the earth if we do not first teach them to call each thing by its right name.
Many more adventures are in store for the IRC River Kidz in 2023: a spoil island clean-up; gatherings focused on political action to protect the lagoon; and a field trip to the local recycling center.
Kidz of all ages are welcome. If you would like to participate, please "follow" and "like" the IRC River Kidz Facebook and Instagram pages.
SUNRISE ROTARY DONATES TO CWC RESTORATION PROJECT
Sunrise Rotary Vero Beach recently presented CWC board member Mark Yanno with a check for $5,400 to help pay for CWC's shoreline restoration project in Riverside Park. The project restored salt marsh habitat along 2,000 linear feet of a canal on the north side of the park where city workers had previously cleared mangroves to maintain flood control.
Salt marshes have all but disappeared from our area of the Indian River Lagoon due to creation of mosquito control impoundments and sea level rise, which allowed mangroves to dominate. Together with Sunrise Rotary, Coastal Conservation Association of Florida, Vero Beach Rotary Club, and the city of Vero Beach, the CWC oversaw planting of four species of thriving salt marsh vegetation in the area.
Future plans call for interpretive signs and a kiosk to be constructed at the site.
CWC SEEKING BOARD MEMBERS
Do you have a passion for restoring the Indian River Lagoon to its former glory? Do you have a knack for bookkeeping? If so, the CWC invites you to apply to become a member of our board of directors as volunteer bookkeeper. And we are expanding our board as well. If you are interested in helping to make our community an even greater place to live than it already is, please email your resume and your reasons for wanting to join our board to firstname.lastname@example.org.