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December 2, 2023 Weekly Newsletter

Action Needed: Support Florida's Water Quality Improvement

A Vital Request to Governor DeSantis for More Funding

The Indian River Neighborhood Association is urgently calling for decisive action from Governor DeSantis to safeguard Florida's water resources. In light of the state's ongoing environmental challenges, particularly the impaired waters of the Indian River Lagoon (IRL), the IRNA is advocating for a substantial increase in state funding. This call aligns with the principles outlined in Governor DeSantis' own executive order and the recently passed HB 1379, mandating the upgrade of septic systems to improve water quality.

The current scenario is stark: The IRL requires an estimated $400 million annually for 20 years for restoration, a figure far exceeding the current $100 million state allocation. This funding gap threatens the health of our waterways, impacts property values, and jeopardizes natural resources. The suggestion? Doubling the millage rates of Florida's Water Management Districts for FY2024/2025. This modest increase in property taxes—illustrated by the 2023 rates shown above—can generate crucial funds for water quality improvement.

The IRNA, committed to maintaining the quality of life in Indian River County and protecting the environment, especially the IRL, is actively supporting HB 1379's septic system conversion mandate. However, with the insufficiency of state funding for this initiative, the burdan currently falls heavily on counties, cities, and individual property owners. The annual rollback of the millage rate by the St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD), and other water management districts further exacerbates the funding crisis for necessary water projects.

In a previous newsletter, we covered the SJRWMD's consideration of a 13th consecutive millage rate rollback, a decision that could severely limit resources for vital water projects. This is particularly concerning given the importance of the Indian River Lagoon and the need to combat deteriorating water quality and environmental hazards.

Your Voice Matters: Take Action Now

The IRNA urges residents and stakeholders to join this crucial advocacy. Contact Governor DeSantis at 850-717-9337 or email to express support for doubling the Water Management Districts' millage rates. This small step can significantly contribute to the restoration of Florida's impaired waters and the fulfillment of HB 1379's requirements. Your participation is vital in steering Florida towards a more sustainable and environmentally sound future.


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We extend our gratitude to each of you for your generous support from our last newsletter. Your contributions are pivotal in nurturing a cleaner, healthier community and fostering essential educational initiatives. While we deeply appreciate all the past support, we humbly ask you to consider contributing today, if you have not already. Your ongoing partnership is crucial in our quest for a sustainable future. Please, if you can, donate today to help us keep making a significant difference. Thank you once again for your steadfast support.



Good News!

The Seine's Transformation: From Polluted to Pristine Paris's Seine River, once a symbol of urban neglect, is undergoing a remarkable transformation. Ahead of the 2024 Paris Olympics, a €1.4 billion cleanup project is turning the once-toxic river into a safe venue for Olympic events. This initiative involves upgrading sewage systems, constructing wastewater storage basins, and enforcing new environmental regulations.

Lasting Impact Beyond the Olympics The Seine's cleanup promises long-term benefits beyond the Olympics. Plans to open the river for public swimming in summer 2025 will reconnect Parisians with their waterway, promoting a sustainable, nature-centric urban lifestyle. This revival is not only a triumph for Paris but also an inspiring example for other regions, including the Indian River Lagoon, showcasing the potential for environmental restoration of urban rivers.

A Global Beacon of Urban River Renewal The Seine's restoration is a beacon of hope, demonstrating that even the most polluted urban waterways can be revitalized with commitment and innovation. It serves as a model for cities worldwide, proving that through dedicated efforts, environmental and social rejuvenation of urban rivers is attainable.


News Headlines and Articles

Inside Windsor’s New Green Village (Vero Beach Magazine) - The development of North Village in Windsor is focusing on sustainability and environmental conservation, featuring green spaces, energy-efficient homes, and natural landscaping to foster a community aligned with future-focused values amidst a climate and biodiversity crisis.

Treasure Coast's only oyster farm helping to restore Indian River Lagoon biodiversity (TCPalm) - Treasure Coast Shellfish is the only oyster farm on the Treasure Coast, contributing to the restoration of the biodiverse Indian River Lagoon by cultivating oysters that filter water and provide habitat for various marine life.

Vero Beach sets four options for future of Twin Pairs; City Council to vote Dec. 12 (TCPalm) - The Vero Beach City Council is nearing a decision on the future of the Twin Pairs corridor, with a vote set for December 12 to choose from four proposed plans focusing on lane reduction, bike lanes, pedestrian crossings, and beautification efforts to revitalize the downtown area.

More changes to come for traffic flow at Vero Beach intersections near railroad crossings (TCPalm) - Indian River County is implementing a second phase of safety improvements at railroad crossings for Brightline's increased train travel, including new traffic signals and signage at key intersections to enhance vehicle and pedestrian safety, following initial changes like converting certain intersections to three-way stops and installing pre-signals at others.

Brightline has not reported harming a single threatened or endangered species to FWS, FWC (TCPalm) - Despite requirements to report observed injuries and deaths of federally protected threatened and endangered species, Brightline has not reported any such incidents since its service began in 2018, raising questions among biologists, researchers, and park rangers about the potential unreported impacts of the high-speed trains on wildlife along its route.

Sea turtle nests break records on US beaches, but global warming threatens their survival (Coastal News Today) - Record numbers of sea turtle nests have been reported on U.S. beaches this year, including a significant increase in Florida, despite the growing threats posed by climate change, which is impacting their survival through rising sea levels, more powerful storms, and temperature changes affecting their sex determination and migration patterns.

Toxic algae bloom near Port Mayaca prompts health alert (WPTV) - A health alert has been issued by the Florida Department of Health in Martin County due to the presence of blue-green algae in the waters near Port Mayaca in Indiantown, following water samples taken on November 13, advising against activities like swimming, boating, and fishing in affected waters and cautioning residents to avoid direct contact with the algae.

Sugar companies sue Army Corps, which could affect EAA reservoir, LOSOM, Everglades (TCPalm) - Three sugar-farming companies, U.S. Sugar Corp., Okeelanta Corp., and the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative, are appealing lawsuits they lost against the Army Corps of Engineers, arguing that a "savings clause" in a 2000 law entitles them to a specific amount of Lake Okeechobee water for irrigation, a move that could potentially impact Everglades restoration efforts and delay projects like the Everglades Agricultural Area reservoir and the Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual.


USDA Releases New Plant Hardiness Zone Map: A Guide for Florida Gardeners

The USDA has updated its Plant Hardiness Zone Map for the first time since 2012, providing an essential tool for Florida gardeners. Available here, this map helps you determine the best plants for your area, based on the most recent 30-year average of lowest winter temperatures.

This user-friendly, interactive map shows that many regions, including Florida, have shifted to warmer zones, potentially expanding your gardening choices. It's particularly useful for those looking to focus on native plants, which are key to maintaining local ecosystems. While the map is a great resource for all gardeners, it's especially valuable in Florida, where understanding your specific zone can make a big difference in your garden's success.


Former official files legal challenge against Manatee decision to cut wetland buffers (Yahoo News) - Former Manatee County commissioner Joe McClash has filed a legal petition challenging the county's recent decision to reduce wetland buffer zones, arguing that the commissioners failed to demonstrate that this reduction is in the public's best interest as required by the county's Comprehensive Plan, amid concerns that this change could lead to increased pollution and habitat destruction.

NOAA gives wrap up on 2023 Atlantic hurricane season ... Season ranks 4th for most-named storms in a year (Coastal News Today) - The 2023 Atlantic hurricane season, ending November 30, was marked by above-normal activity with 20 named storms, ranking it fourth for the most named storms in a season since 1950, driven by record-warm Atlantic Sea surface temperatures and a strong El Niño; the season included seven hurricanes and three major hurricanes, with Hurricane Idalia being the only U.S. landfalling hurricane.

OPINION: Florida Lawmakers Put Developers’ Interests Ahead of Residents’ Hurricane Safety (Coastal News Today) - Florida's Legislature, showing a strong alignment with the development industry, passed a bill during a special session that prohibits local governments in hurricane-affected counties from making significant changes to land-use or growth plan regulations for three years, a move criticized for prioritizing property rights over human safety and ignoring lessons from Hurricane Ian's devastation.

Climate scientists try to cut their own carbon footprints (AP News) - Kim Cobb, a climate scientist from Georgia Tech, has drastically reduced her flying to lower her carbon footprint, joining a growing number of climate scientists and activists who are consciously limiting their personal contributions to global warming. Despite some debate within the scientific community about the impact of individual actions like flying less, Cobb's example demonstrates a commitment to aligning personal habits with professional understanding of climate change, though it sometimes comes at a professional cost.

Half Of The United States Have Now Thrown Everything But The Kitchen Sink At EPA's And The Corps Of Engineers' WOTUS Rule. What Happens Next? (Coastal News Today) - The recent amendment of complaints by 26 states against the EPA's and the Corps of Engineers' Waters of the United States rule highlights an ongoing legal and ideological battle over the scope and interpretation of the Federal Clean Water Act.

Demand for seafood is soaring, but oceans are giving up all they can. Can we farm fish in new ways? (The Westerly Sun) - As global seafood demand soars and oceans reach their wild fish production limits, innovative aquaculture methods are being developed to boost sustainable seafood production while minimizing environmental impact, with efforts ranging from aquaculture villages in Indonesia to offshore fish farming in China, indoor salmon fisheries in Florida, and using black soldier flies as fish feed in France.

Global marine life is on the move due to sea temperature rises, says study (Coastal News Today) - The phenomenon of "tropicalization," where marine life migrates poleward due to rising sea temperatures, is altering the ecological landscape of oceans, leading to changes in ecosystems, biodiversity, and potential socio-economic impacts, as detailed in a new study from the University of Southampton.


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently announced it would review the potential reclassification of manatees back to endangered.


All aquatic species in river mouths are contaminated by microplastics (Coastal News Today) - All aquatic species in river mouths flowing into the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean are contaminated with microplastics, with molluscs being the most affected due to their water-filtering ability; this contamination is a result of microplastics and nanoplastics accumulating in estuaries, posing a threat to aquatic ecosystems and entering the food-web.

Plankton Are Making Ocean Plastic Pollution Even More of a Mess (Coastal News Today) - Microbes are breaking down plastic pollution into tiny nanoplastic particles, which are even more dangerous to ecosystems due to their ability to easily enter the bloodstream, lungs, and concentrate up the food chain, as revealed in a study where plankton called rotifers were observed to rapidly produce large quantities of nanoplastic particles.

Microbes in Ocean Plastic Trash: Harmful and Promising (Coastal News Today) - Scientists from Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, have discovered both potential threats and promising resources within the 'Plastisphere'—colonies of bacteria and fungi thriving on ocean plastic trash. This ecological community, formed on plastics in the ocean, includes potentially harmful microorganisms that can affect marine and coastal environments, as well as potential plastic-eating bacteria that could be used to speed up plastic degradation.

In a U.S. First, a Commercial Plant Starts Pulling Carbon From the Air (New York Times) - Heirloom Carbon Technologies has opened the first commercial direct air capture plant in the United States, in Tracy, California, aiming to fight climate change by using trays of limestone to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and then sealing the gas permanently in concrete. The small-scale plant can currently absorb 1,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year, with plans for rapid expansion to reach millions of tons annually.

Special Report: The fight to save Tangier Island, a cultural gem in the Chesapeake Bay (Coastal News Today) - Tangier Island, a shrinking fishing village in the Chesapeake Bay, is facing erosion and sea level rise, threatening its unique way of life, despite efforts like the construction of a seawall and a jetty, with the community remaining hopeful for assistance in saving the island.

Tourism at a crossroads on the Outer Banks (Coastal News Today) - The Long-Range Tourism Management Plan (LTRMP) for the Outer Banks emphasizes the importance of environmental stewardship in the face of rising sea levels and encourages initiatives like educational programs, low-impact recreation, and strategic planning for maintaining resilient shorelines to sustain tourism.

Diving into the Mysterious World of Sea Ducks (Coastal News Today) - Sea ducks, including 15 North American species, are facing population declines, with some listed as threatened, prompting conservation efforts like the Sea Duck Joint Venture, which has identified crucial habitat sites and created tools for informed environmental assessments to address threats to these unique marine birds across North America.

UN report says world is racing to well past warming limit as carbon emissions rise instead of plunge (ABC News) - A United Nations report warns that the Earth is on track to surpass the international climate threshold, with global warming projected to reach 2.5 to 2.9 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, highlighting the urgent need for countries to cut emissions by 42% by the end of the decade to have a chance at limiting warming to the 1.5-degree Celsius target set by the Paris Agreement, as carbon emissions from coal, oil, and gas continue to rise.


Want your voice to be heard? Use this link to easily contact elected officials—from your city council to the President. Your voice can make a real impact. While the IRNA may occasionally prompt you to contact specific officials about urgent issues, we keep this list handy for your convenience. Can't find who you're looking for? Just let us know; we're here to help connect you with the right people.


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