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Manatee Update and State of Emergency

To Our Partners:

This has been a tragic year – over 750 manatees dead in Florida. The manatees are starving due to years of pollution running off the land from urban and agricultural development, creating such poor water quality conditions that the seagrasses can no longer survive. On the chart below, please note the pale gray line indicating the percent of seagrass coverage in the IRL.

It is important to remember that we are part of this wonderful web of life also. The lagoon is unhealthy for manatees, dolphins, turtles and fish; as evidenced by declining populations and disease. As we learn more about harmful algal blooms, bacteria and toxic chemicals in the water, the potential impact to human health becomes more obvious.

The Clean Water Coalition of Indian River County; along with 15 other groups from our area; are calling for the Governor to declare a of State of Emergency to restore the Indian River Lagoon and save the manatees.


June 8, 2021 Office of Governor Ron DeSantis State of Florida The Capital 400 S. Monroe Street Tallahassee, Florida 32399 Dear Governor DeSantis, The attached document is submitted on behalf of the organizations listed to amplify our united call for assistance on the action items listed to help restore the Indian River Lagoon. We wish to begin by thanking you for your support in this legislative session for the 5.4% of document stamps for wastewater improvements around the state. The $111 million recurring money is badly needed and will be a great help in assisting local governments address their respective pollution mitigation projects. In addition, we wish to thank you for the one time $500 million from the American Recovery Act for similar assistance state-wide for pollution corrective measures from septic conversions to sewerage treatment plant upgrades. We believe these two funding initiatives will help jump start a number of water quality improvements for counties and municipalities. Given we face a $5 billion investment requirement to restore the Indian River Lagoon we look forward to building on these investments. Our call is for a sustained long-term funding expansion to restore the IRL and the state’s other waterways as soon as possible to ensure the health of our economy, the health of our citizens, the health of our manatees, and the health of Florida’s waters. We sincerely appreciate your interests in this regard and thank you for giving these requests your attention. Sincerely, Brevard Indian River Lagoon Coalition, Vince Lamb, Chair Clean Water Coalition of Indian River County, Paul Fafeita, President Cape Canaveral Shrimp Company, Sherri McCoy, Owner Conradina Chapter of Florida Native Plant Society, Carol Herbert, President Dixie Crossroads Seafood Restaurant, Laurilee Thompson, Owner Environmental Learning Center of Vero Beach, Barbara Schlitt Ford, President Friends of St. Sebastian River, Tim Glover Indian River Lagoon RiverKeeper, Mike Conner Indian River Land Trust, Ken Grudens, Executive Director Indian River Neighborhood Assn., Mike Johannsen, Chairman Marine Resources Council, Leesa Souto, Executive Director Paddling Paradise, Danny Smith, Owner Pelican Island Audubon Society, Dr. Richard Baker, President St. Lucie Conservation Alliance, Shari Anker, President Space Coast Surfrider Foundation, Alec Buchness, Chair Wild Ocean Seafood Market, Mike and Jenna Merrifield, Owner


Request for Governor DeSantis to Declare a State of Emergency to Restore the Indian River Lagoon and Save the Manatees

The evidence is overwhelming and indisputable that the Indian River Lagoon (IRL), one of the most biodiverse estuaries in North America, has become an unhealthy, algae-dominated eco-system with substantial losses of sea grasses, fisheries, and now a record death rate of its beloved manatees. Local governments along the IRL have funded projects and implemented regulations to protect and restore the Lagoon. While the IRL would clearly be in worse condition without these efforts, the sea grass loss and manatee deaths are clear indications that more is needed to reverse the algae dominance. Restoring the IRL will require the following:

  • Immediate, long-term financial assistance to:

    • Cultivate large quantities of native sea grasses and plant in areas deemed sufficiently healthy to allow the growth;

    • Convert septic systems to sewer;

    • Upgrade all sewerage treatment plants to Advanced Wastewater Treatment (AWT) as a step towards “toilet to tap” systems;

    • Fund infrastructure for stormwater treatment and mitigation, along with muck removal.

  • Provide effective regulatory controls on all forms of urban, suburban and agricultural pollution, including:

    • Banning the use of glyphosate herbicide and other similarly harmful chemicals in or adjacent to waterways;

    • Fully implementing the Governor’s Blue-Green Task Force recommendations;

    • Substantially reducing the nutrient pollution from lawn fertilizer entering the IRL;

    • Stopping discharges from Lake Okeechobee from entering the Indian River Lagoon;

    • Requiring advanced technology septic systems where sewer is not available.

These actions taken together will turn the tide from the destructive path the IRL is on and provide the financial and regulatory support required to restore the lifeblood of our communities. It’s well documented that investments made to support the restoration of the IRL have significant positive payback of between 20 and 33:1. The time has come to act boldly and effectively to rehabilitate our waterways. Our health, our natural environment, and our economy depends on it. In short, we urge you to act immediately on all the corrective actions referenced herein. We eagerly look forward to your constructive response to this urgent matter.

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