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August 5, 2023 Weekly Newsletter


Transform Your Lawn, Secure Our Future

Earlier this year, Pelican Island Audubon Society put on their 4th conference called, "Transforming Landscapes for a Sustainable Future." This event serves as a rallying call for all of us to make environmental strides, starting with our back (and front!) yards. The current plight of our Lagoon is at least partially due to runoff and it is concerning. An important part of the solution? Shifting from grass lawns to native plants. These plants are not only beautiful, but they also benefit our local fauna. Furthermore, they help reduce the significant water consumption linked with home irrigation.

Key takeaways from the series include:

  • Dr. Craig N. Huegel: Unveiling the hidden powers of plants.

  • Dr. John W. Fitzpatrick: Discoveries from the 'eBird' citizen-science data and its impact on local bird populations.

  • Dr. Grant Gilmore: Comparing the environmental impact of lawn grass versus seagrass.

  • Timothee Sallin: Pioneering sustainable landscapes in Florida's communities.

Discover these insights and more from the conference videos. Dive in to uncover ways to make a difference right at home. Heads up, while the videos are long, they are filled to the brim with important info. We encourage everyone to check them out!


A central Florida study found that, on average, 64% of our drinking water is used by homes for irrigation. In the summer, this water use rises to 88%. (Source)


 

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Your contribution is more than just a donation; it's a commitment to education, advocacy, and a brighter tomorrow for our environment. We genuinely couldn't do this without you. Thank you for standing with us.


 

The Campaign for the Right to Clean Water aims to gather 900k signatures by November 30th. Additionally, they are seeking funds for direct mailing of petitions. If you're interested and able to contribute, find more information at this link. Your support could make a significant impact!



 

News Headlines and Articles

Heat likely caused fish kill in Indian River Lagoon in Sebastian (TCPalm) - A large number of fish, including over a dozen species, were found floating along the Indian River Lagoon's west shoreline in Sebastian, and while the cause of the fish kill is not determined, the unusually high water temperature is likely a contributing factor.


Sebastian fish kill could be warning sign of more to come due to rising temperatures (WPTV) - A fish kill in Indian River County, caused by an algae bloom and exacerbated by high temperatures and runoff from flooding, raises concerns about the impact of rising temperatures on marine life and the need for action to manage pollution and prevent future fish kills in the Indian River Lagoon.


County re-organization starts at top (Vero News) - County Administrator John Titkanich and the County Commission are reorganizing the county government to better manage resources and accommodate the growing population, with changes at the top, including the appointment of Bill DeBraal as the new County Attorney and the addition of two top leadership positions in Titkanich's office for infrastructure and development, and an ombudsman for citizen services. Michael Zito will become Deputy County Administrator, overseeing various departments, and the changes also include succession planning for retiring employees.


Study: Bolder lagoon cleanup effort needed beyond fertilizer ban (Vero News) - Researchers suggest that Indian River County's decade-old rainy-season fertilizer ban has reached a plateau in improving water quality in the lagoon, and further measures, such as septic-to-sewer connections for homes, are needed to effectively reduce nutrient loads and clean up the waterway.


Special Report: 10 years after the ‘Lost Summer’ of 2013, what’s changed? (Vote Water) - A special report reflects on the "Lost Summer" of 2013 when Lake Okeechobee discharges caused water quality issues and toxic algae blooms in the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers, highlighting subsequent efforts to address the problem, but emphasizing the need for more comprehensive measures to prevent future discharges and protect Florida's waterways.


Save it or lose it: As seagrass vanishes, a mass death of marine life and a brown-water future (Sun Sentinel) - As seagrass vanishes in Florida's coastal waters, marine life faces a mass death, with 2,000 manatees, a quarter of the state's population, dying from starvation due to the disappearance of their main food source, seagrass, leading to questions about the coexistence of seagrass and Florida in the 21st century amid factors like human impact, climate change, and nutrient runoff from development, prompting concerns about the future of Florida's ecosystem.


Monday storms leave streets flooded; Vero Beach breaks daily rainfall record (Vero News) - Heavy thunderstorms and drenching rain caused flooding in several streets in Indian River County, Vero Beach and Fort Pierce, breaking daily rainfall records, with Vero Beach receiving 3.21 inches and Fort Pierce 3.84 inches of rainfall, prompting weather advisories and warnings to avoid flooded roadways for safety reasons.


Renovations at ORCA's soon-to-be new headquarters are moving right along! (ORCA) - The Ocean Research & Conservation Association (ORCA) is progressing with renovations for their new headquarters, the D.J. Rainone Research & Science Center, aiming to enhance their mission to restore the Indian River Lagoon through applied science research, technology development, and community outreach programs, and they seek donations to support their conservation efforts.


 

The Moorhen Marsh LEAPS (Low Energy Aquatic Plant System) is a cutting-edge stormwater treatment facility in Indian River County. Sourcing stormwater from the North Relief Canal, it handles runoff from over 6,300 acres of our county. This project, a collaborative effort with the St. Johns River Water Management District, is geared towards enhancing water quality. Dive into this concise 90-second video for a clear understanding of the system's operation.


 

Water is refreshing in the heat, right? In parts of Florida this past week, not so much. (Boston Globe) - Ocean temperatures in parts of Florida have reached triple digits, making swimming less refreshing and affecting fish populations, with sea corals bleaching and mortalities occurring due to the high temperatures caused by climate change and weather conditions.


Americans are spotting more sharks in the water. Here’s why that’s a good thing (CNN) - As shark populations rebound off US coasts, more sharks are being spotted closer to beaches, prompting conservation efforts and drone deployment to protect swimmers, and though shark sightings have increased, the risk of shark bites remains exceptionally low.


River advocate: Lake O water is tainted, polluting the Caloosahatchee, its estuary (News-Press) - Lake Okeechobee water is causing toxic blue-green algae blooms in the Caloosahatchee River, raising concerns for the region's water quality and wildlife.


High-Resolution Coastal Land Cover Data Will Be Available (Coastal News Today) - NOAA will provide new high-resolution coastal land cover data for the entire coastal zone, transitioning from a 30-meter resolution to a 1-meter resolution, enabling communities to access and analyze details for sea level rise projections, flood protection efforts, and wetland restoration projects. The data will be available free of charge on the Digital Coast website by the end of 2023.


‘Pretty amazing’ mix: Art meets science at ORCA’s Data Jam (Vero News) - Local creatives participated in the Ocean Research Conservation Association's Data Jam, expressing datasets collected by citizen scientists in artistic ways to gain a deeper understanding of the Indian River Lagoon's condition and advance scientific knowledge and experiences. The event showcased a mix of innovative and unique artwork, connecting art and science to convey insights and empower each other in explaining our world.


Florida fishing: Hot enough to fry flounder? Lobster, alligator and snook seasons coming (TCPalm) - Florida fishing enthusiasts can look forward to the upcoming harvest seasons for lobsters, alligators, and snook, among other species, with specific dates and regulations provided by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.


 

Source: Florida Native Plant Society


 

Other News

Miami’s Overflowing Septic Tanks and Trash Piles Test Appeal to Rich (Yahoo Finance) - Miami's environmental challenges, including overflowing garbage heaps and septic tanks, could impact its appeal to wealthy newcomers and out-of-state workers.


As Climate Clock Ticks, US Government Has Been Using Burning Trash to Look Green (Reveal News) - The U.S. government has been using burning trash in an incinerator to claim green energy through renewable energy certificates (RECs) while still emitting greenhouse gases and other pollutants, as revealed in the article.


Manatee County Looks to Gut Wetland Protections (The Bradenton Times) - Manatee County Government is considering proposals to loosen wetland protections, removing local regulations and deferring to state minimum requirements, sparking concerns from the public and environmental experts.


It’s midwinter, but it’s over 100 degrees in South America (Washington Post) - Unusually intense and record-breaking heatwaves are scorching South America during its winter season, with temperatures soaring above 100 degrees Fahrenheit in Chile and Argentina, raising concerns about the extreme climatic event and its potential link to climate change.


Warmer water temperatures already have effect on Sarasota Bay (Your Observer) - Warmer water temperatures in Sarasota Bay and South Florida are becoming evident, impacting local industries, fisheries, and contributing to issues like algal growth and sea level rise, underscoring the importance of nutrient management and taking action on environmental issues.


Radical ways to fix the Earth: are they magic bullets or just band-aids? (The Guardian) - Amid the hottest month ever recorded, scientists emphasize that global reductions in fossil fuel burning are the only realistic solution to prevent the worst impacts of climate change, casting doubt on the viability of proposed geoengineering solutions like carbon capture and solar radiation modification.


Beachfront Roulette: After Hurricane Ian, Southwest Florida takes its chances on the climate crisis and builds back right up to the water’s edge (Coastal News Today) - Last year's Hurricane Ian devastated Southwest Florida, causing billions in damages, but despite climate perils and rising sea levels, real estate developers continue building homes along the vulnerable coastline due to profit incentives and a lack of post-disaster strategic relocation discussions in the state.


 

Do you like podcasts? How about one about our water and the lagoon? In 'One Lagoon – One Voice', representatives from the Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program engage with scientists, researchers, and local leaders to delve into pressing matters impacting the 156-mile estuary along Florida's eastern coastline. Dive deeper into pivotal discussions on seagrass rejuvenation, manatee counts, and more. This unique show offers an insightful lens on both the marvels and concerns surrounding the Indian River Lagoon. Check it out here.


 

Upcoming Events and Announcements


The Indian River County Lagoon Management Plan (LMP) pinpoints 17 essential factors influencing the Indian River Lagoon's health. Divided into five focal areas linked to county departments, the plan not only sets forth goals but also recommends projects and best practices. This guide underscores the importance of collaborative efforts in safeguarding Florida's treasured habitat. Essential to its development and success are public meetings, ensuring community involvement. Please plan to attend either the August 10 or 17 workshop, and please note the August 17 workshop has virtual options. Use this link to download and comment on the plan.





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