Updated: Oct 2, 2019
Excessive Nutrients + Lack of Political Will = Toxic Algal Blooms
The Indian River Lagoon (IRL), the St. Johns River and numerous other Florida watersheds are in serious trouble from excessive nutrients entering their waters. In most cases, it’s caused by a combination of failing septic systems, inefficient sewer treatment plants, aging sewage transmission infrastructure and runoff from agriculture, urban and suburban landscapes. A particularly significant contributor is sewer sludge (biosolids) being shipped north by contract haulers to be applied on ranch lands north of the Lake Okeechobee Watershed where it has been banned.
As calculated by the Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program, the cost to restore the IRL watershed alone is estimated at around $5 billion. The cost to address the balance of the state is easily in the $25-30 billion range. So far, the State has only committed significant funding to address pollution sources in the Lake Okeechobee/Everglades Watershed. The CWC has teamed up with the Brevard Indian River Lagoon Coalition (BIRLC) to offer a possible approach to generate new sources of funds for statewide recovery efforts.
Economic studies have generated reports concluding that investments made to restore watersheds often have a 20:1 payback. In other words, it’s good business. This calculation does not yet include the health care costs that people are incurring from exposure to the dangerous toxins from Harmful Algal Bloom (HABs). Already dogs have died and hundreds of people have had health issues with exposure to these HABs. Most medical professionals are now trying to track walk-ins with symptoms from exposure to toxic algae conditions.
The current water crisis demands urgent and immediate action to eliminate excess nutrient pollution. Florida cannot afford not to address our water quality issues. With vision and leadership at the State and local levels we can turn the tide to restore Florida’s waters to vibrant health for current and future generations.
On August 28, 2019, Sebastian’s city council voted to annex over 1,100 acres of agriculture land south of the city’s existing boundaries including lands that border the headwaters of the St. Sebastian River. The land is owned by the Graves Brothers’ Inc. The annexation ordinance approved by the city also includes an effort to change the property’s agriculture land use designation into several designations permitting intense development for residential, commercial and industrial purposes. Notably, the city seeks to set aside only 43 acres for conservation.
The agriculture designation currently overlaying the property limits development to one residential unit per five acres. However, the county’s development ordinances would permit the development of a “New Town”, which is the designation for a process that provides substantial density bonus- up to 1.5 residential units per acre along with commercial, industrial and institutional uses- in exchange for setting aside 50% of the overall property as open space and committing to strict standards for mixed use development. Rather than work with the county in developing a New Town, the landowner sought annexation into the City of Sebastian.
Sebastian seeks to provide development rights that would allow construction of up to 3,699 residential units along with hundreds of acres for commercial and industrial development. Conservation is kept to a bare minimum despite the presence of a slough to the south prong of the St. Sebastian River running through the property. Traffic studies produced by the landowner’s consultant show that the change in land use designations would lead to an additional 37,000 daily traffic trips on local roads. Further, the landowner was recently awarded a multi-million dollar contract by the St. Johns River Water Management District to construct a ~200 acre Dispersed Water Management (“DWM”) project on the property. The contract is for ten years at which time the landowner can cease operating the DWM project and move forward with development. No mention to the DWM project and its environmental benefits were made by city staff in their analysis of the annexation and future development of the property.
This is not Sebastian’s first annexation of Graves Brothers’ property. Last year, the city annexed 70 acres of the landowner’s property. This 1,100 acre annexation connects to that 70 acre annexation. Going back to January 2018, emails obtained through a public records request show a coordinated effort between city staff and the landowner’s consultant to piecemeal annexations of the landowner’s large property holdings into Sebastian. The landowner has another 600+ acres of land that connects to this 1,100 annexed property.
Both the county and environmental groups are strongly considering legal and administrative challenges to the annexation. These challenges are not taken lightly. Going back to April of this year, the Clean Water Coalition of Indian River County wrote to the Sebastian City Council requesting that they coordinate with the county to create a development plan for the Graves Brothers’ property that would protect natural resources and minimize harmful impacts to the environment and existing residents. Unfortunately, that plea went ignored.
Show your support for clean water! On Saturday, October 26, 2019, the CWC will be walking in the Vero Beach Centennial Parade. We extend our invitation to all of our partners and anyone else who would like to participate. We are hoping for a large crowd and all are welcome to walk with us. Wear dark blue to show your support of our water! If you are interested, please use this form to sign up and we will be in touch with more information.
CWC is celebrating our 400th and 500th Partner!
LEFT: 400th Partner: Premier Millwork & Cabinets. Shown from left: CWC Board member, Charlie Pope, Ericka &Chris Harrington.
RIGHT: 500th Partner: Kite Properties. Shown from left: Kollin Kite, Charlie Pope and Keith Kite
A full list of our partners as of 9/15/19 can be found here.
Every Dream Has a Price benefits from 20% of all receipts for lunch, dinner and take out at the Italian Grill on September 19th. Enjoy a great meal while helping a good cause.
Pelican Island Audubon Society revives Free Friday Night Movies complete w/popcorn and drinks! Kids Welcome! October 11th, 6:30 “Tree” – A documentary with amazing facts about the silent sentinels of our planet. 2nd Feature – “The Man Who Planted Trees." Come early (5:00pm) to receive a FREE native tree and a short lesson about tree care at Audubon House – 195 Oslo Road.
The Clean Water Coalition is seeking a volunteer to collect water samples once every two weeks from the Indian River Lagoon, and deliver them to the Health Department in Vero Beach by noon on the day of collection. The samples of water would need to be collected at the Wabasso Causeway, City of Vero Beach, and the end of Oslo Road. The volunteer would need to have an alternate person to sample at times when they might not be available due to illness or other conflict. Anyone interested, or needing more information, should contact Mark Yanno at 772-559-1422.
Speakers Available for Clubs or Homeowner Associations: CWC has speakers willing to provide a program about the issues threatening our local waters, along with some solutions. Reply to this email for more information.
Sebastian City Council recently announced that the City was awarded an additional grant of $100,000 from the Indian River Lagoon Council to help businesses and homeowners connect to sewer within the Community Redevelopment Area (CRA). The City will provide award amounts based on connection type at 25/75% cost share. The time frame to apply for assistance is from October 1, 2019 to September 31, 2000. The CWC encourages all property owners within the CRA to connect to sewer to prevent pollution from entering the Indian River Lagoon which feeds algal growth. Click here for the application and more information.