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December 9 Weekly Newsletter


Residents of Indian River County including Vero Beach, Sebastian, Indian River Shores, Orchid and Fellsmere are facing an important moment in the history of Indian River County. With our population growing every day, the community is at a crossroads. The growth, while inevitable, brings with it challenges such as traffic congestion, loss of green spaces, increased pollution, and strain on public services. However, this growth also presents an opportunity to shape the future of our county through active participation in the Evaluation Appraisal Report (EAR) process, which is crucial for reviewing and revising the Comprehensive Plan.


The Comprehensive Plan is the County's roadmap for growth, and our defense from the worst of development. It is designed to provide a vision, set goals and objectives, establish policies and strategies, and guide decision-making, ensuring that growth is sustainable and in alignment with the community's needs. Most importantly, it involves engaging the community to reflect its values and priorities.


We are in the midst an extensive public engagement process. This is a rare opportunity that occurs only once every seven years, and your input is vital. If you haven't attended the earlier meetings, you still have a chance to make your voice heard at one of the final two sessions on December 13 at the Intergenerational Recreation Center. The sessions are scheduled for 11 am and 6 pm, with the latter also available via ZOOM.


In addition to attending these meetings, residents are urged to participate in the ongoing survey, open through December 31. This is your chance to directly influence the planning process. Share the survey with friends, family, and colleagues to ensure a diverse range of viewpoints is considered.


The holiday season is undoubtedly a busy time, but involvement in shaping the future of our community should not be overlooked. Your participation now can significantly impact the direction Indian River County takes over the next seven years. Attend the meetings, take the survey, and encourage others to do the same. Remember, the decisions made today will shape our tomorrow.



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We're truly grateful for your past support and kindly request your consideration for a contribution today, if you haven't yet. Your continued partnership is vital in our pursuit of a sustainable future. If possible, please donate today to assist us in continuing to make a meaningful impact. Thank you once again for your unwavering support.



 


SB 664 / HB 527: A Threat to Local Environmental Protections


The proposed bill, HB 527 and its senate companion bill SB 664, present significant challenges for environmental conservation in Florida. By mandating the acquisition of buffer zones through eminent domain, it places a heavy financial and logistical burden on local governments, potentially dissuading them from establishing critical environmental safeguards. The bill's preemption of local authority in regulating dredge and fill activities further undermines community-led environmental initiatives.


Additionally, the proposed repeal of land management review teams threatens to diminish community involvement and oversight in land management. Collectively, these aspects of HB 527 could facilitate more aggressive development at the expense of local ecosystems and sustainable practices, sparking considerable concern among environmental advocates.


The IRNA is committed to keeping a close eye on the upcoming Legislative Session, ensuring you're informed about the various bills progressing through Tallahassee - the good, the bad, and the ugly. We strongly urge you to engage with our elected representatives on matters close to your heart. Remember, it's through our collective grassroots action that we can effectively challenge the influence of special interest groups.


 

Ghosts of the lagoon: Skeletal remains of boats haunt waterways from Vero to Sebastian (TCPalm) - Boats abandoned in Florida's Indian River Lagoon are decaying and posing environmental and navigational hazards, prompting local efforts to remove and address these derelict vessels. Great job to our friends at the Clean Water Coalition of Indian River County for working hard on this issue!


Record high set for sea turtle nesting season this year (VeroNews) - Indian River County recorded a record high of 12,771 sea turtle nests in 2023, surpassing the previous year's count, despite challenges like hurricanes and threats to the endangered species' habitat. Don't forget this article we shared last week, however: Sea turtle nests break records on US beaches, but global warming threatens their survival.


Three Corners: Extra time likely beneficial (Vero News) - The Vero Beach City Council has extended the deadline for developer proposals for the Three Corners project to February 1, 2024, in light of market challenges and to encourage more comprehensive proposals for this significant $250 million-plus development.


The Sky’s the Limit at Vero Beach Regional Airport (Vero Beach Magazine) - Vero Beach Regional Airport, experiencing growth and new developments like Breeze Airways' operations and a future customs facility, aims to balance expansion with community integration while maintaining financial self-sufficiency.


Incumbent Vero Mayor Cotugno chosen for a second term (VeroNews) - John Cotugno won a second consecutive term as Vero Beach mayor, with Linda Moore re-elected as vice mayor, as the council focuses on major projects like the Three Corners development and the relocation of the wastewater treatment plant.


Fellsmere residents angry about drainage issues (WPTV) - Residents in Fellsmere, frustrated by severe flooding and drainage issues, gathered to demand action and accountability from city officials, considering the formation of a property owners' association for stronger collective action.


No lettuce for you: Florida doesn’t plan on providing supplemental feeding for manatees (Fox Weather) - Florida plans to allocate $30 million to manatee conservation, focusing on expanding acute care facilities and habitat support, but will not continue the supplemental feeding program initiated in 2021, as natural food sources show signs of recovery.


Shores trying once again for crosswalk on A1A (Vero News) - Indian River Shores is seeking approval from the Florida Department of Transportation for a third time to install a pedestrian crosswalk on A1A near a CVS, after previous studies deemed it unnecessary due to low traffic and accident rates, but hopes are higher now due to changes in FDOT leadership and a shift towards valuing pedestrian and cyclist safety.


 

Join ORCA in a citizen-led effort to study the Indian River Lagoon's aquatic ecosystem through the One Health Fish Monitoring Project. Anglers are crucial to this mission, as they collect and label legally caught fish for research on environmental and health impacts. This initiative sheds light on the health of our waters and its inhabitants.


If you have any questions or want to participate, please contact Missy Weiss at mweiss@teamorca.org, and visit TeamORCA.org to learn more. Help unlock the secrets of our Lagoon and contribute to a healthier marine environment.


 

Cells of people living in greener areas age more slowly, research finds (The Guardian) - Research reveals that living in greener neighborhoods with more parks and trees can slow cellular aging, as evidenced by longer telomeres in residents of such areas, although this benefit diminishes in neighborhoods affected by pollution and segregation.


What would you do with $190 million? Here's what Treasure Coast governments are doing (TCPalm) - Treasure Coast cities and counties are strategically utilizing a $190 million allocation from the American Rescue Plan for diverse projects, including infrastructure upgrades, internet technology, and housing for veterans, demonstrating a multifaceted approach to regional development and community support.


Will it be cold for Christmas? National Weather Service, Farmers' Almanac post forecasts (TCPalm) - Forecasters predict a warmer and wetter Christmas for Florida this year due to El Niño, contrasting with last year's unusually cold temperatures, and anticipate above-normal precipitation in the region.


Why Florida's home insurance crisis matters (Coastal News Today) - Florida's escalating home insurance crisis, driven by climate change-induced natural disasters, is making many homes uninsurable and causing premiums to skyrocket, posing significant financial challenges for homeowners and potentially impacting the state's population growth.


VoteWater Deep Dive: This project could clean water going into Lake O, but local residents oppose it. Now what? (VoteWater) - A stormwater treatment project designed to reduce phosphorus pollution in Lake Okeechobee is delayed due to local concerns about potential flooding and airplane crashes, though the project is deemed crucial for improving the lake's water quality.


Living shorelines are a natural defense against climate change | Commentary (Orlando Sentinel) - Living shorelines, a sustainable alternative to traditional coastal defenses, offer a natural solution to mitigate climate change effects in Florida, providing benefits like erosion control, habitat creation, and improved water quality, while also facing challenges in widespread adoption due to regulatory barriers and initial costs.


Florida water agency latest to confirm cyber incident as feds warn of nation-state attacks (The Record) - The St. Johns River Water Management District in Florida confirmed a cyberattack on its IT systems, with containment measures successfully implemented, amid broader concerns of foreign cyberattacks on U.S. water utilities. This incident occurs as federal agencies warn of heightened risks to critical infrastructure, including water facilities.


Atlantic hurricane season 2023 was filled with monster storms: How bad was it? (Coastal News Today) - The 2023 Atlantic hurricane season, marked by a record 20 named storms, was the fourth most active on record, yet the United States experienced only two landfalls, largely due to competing influences of a strong El Niño and record-warm Atlantic waters.


 

The BBC’s Carl Nasman investigates how the food we eat, drink and produce impacts the planet. From eating insects to edible water bottles, Carl explores the innovations that could help restore ecosystems and reduce plastic pollution.


 

OPINION: Another Legislative Gift to Developers (Coastal News Today) - Florida's CS/HB 1-C law extends the prohibition on restrictive local building processes in response to Hurricanes Ian and Nicole until October 2026, raising concerns about the impact on coastal areas and the need for stronger disaster preparedness and environmental protection measures.


Robotics and deep learning to revolutionize seagrass monitoring (Coastal News Today) - The use of robotics and deep learning is revolutionizing seagrass monitoring, offering a more efficient and cost-effective approach to studying these vital ecosystems, which play a crucial role in marine biodiversity, carbon sequestration, and coastal protection.


Viral video of manatee's living conditions feels like a 'gut punch,' sparks relocation from Florida facility (Yahoo News) - A viral video showing a manatee in poor living conditions at Miami Seaquarium sparked public outrage and led to the relocation of three manatees to facilities with better care, highlighting issues of animal welfare and the need for accountability in wildlife management.


Nestle, Coca-Cola face legal scrutiny over ‘misleading’ claims on bottle packaging: ‘[It] is technically not possible’ (The Cool Down) - Major beverage companies like Nestlé and Coca-Cola are under legal scrutiny in Europe for potentially misleading claims about their plastic bottles being 100% recyclable or renewable, prompting calls for clearer consumer information and more honest environmental impact disclosures.


A wet future: South Florida’s plan to fight flooding if sea levels rise 3 feet by 2075 (Sun Sentinel) - South Florida is developing plans to combat flooding exacerbated by sea-level rise and climate change, focusing on overhauling its flood control systems with pumps and other measures to handle increased rainfall and high tides, recognizing that gravity-based systems are becoming obsolete.


As Groundwater Dwindles, Powerful Players Block Change (New York Times) - Powerful agricultural and industrial interests are resisting efforts to regulate the depletion of groundwater, even as levels fall rapidly across the country due to overpumping, underregulation, and climate change, impacting local economies and ecosystems.


Green macroalga caulerpa has replaced seagrass in Florida's Indian River Lagoon (Phys.org) - The Indian River Lagoon in Florida is facing ecological challenges with the replacement of vital seagrass by the green macroalga Caulerpa due to increased nutrient pollution from various sources, impacting the ecosystem and contributing to the starvation and mortality of local manatees. This article is pretty technical but has some very interesting facts in it.


 

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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