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Good News from Vero Beach, Luncheon Success, and more

March 30, 2024 Weekly Newsletter


City of Vero Beach Celebrates Clean Water Victories!


The City of Vero Beach is making waves in the fight for clean waterways! Two recent measures showcase their commitment to protecting our precious water resources and promoting a healthier environment:


Septic Systems Get a Sustainable Upgrade

In a major win for the Indian River Lagoon and our community, this week the city has mandated that properties within a sensitive environmental area connect to central sewer systems by June 2028, which complies with the 2030 deadline from HB1379 passed in the 2023 Legislative Session. Further, the city has mandated that a property must connect within one year of sale. This forward-thinking ordinance phases out aging septic systems, which can leak harmful nutrients into the groundwater and our lagoon.


Fertilizer Use Takes a Smarter Turn

Vero Beach is also championing science-backed solutions for fertilizer management. A resolution passed this week reaffirms the city's dedication to seasonal fertilizer restrictions, aiming to prevent nutrient runoff that fuels algae blooms. This builds on existing regulations and shows a clear stand against state attempts to weaken local control over environmental protection.


The Bottom Line: A Cleaner, Greener Future

These actions by the City of Vero Beach signal a commitment to a healthier, more sustainable future. By tackling pollution at its source – whether from septic systems or fertilizer use – they're safeguarding our waterways, our health, and the unique beauty of our Florida home.


In appreciation of the council's efforts, we encourage you to send a message of thanks. It's important to acknowledge and support positive environmental actions. To make it easy, simply send an email to cityclrk@covb.org and request that the clerk's staff forward your message of gratitude to the entire council. If you know a council person, thank them next time you talk to them. Even sending a brief note like, "Thank you for doing the right thing for our waters!" can go a long way in showing your support for this kind of endeavor.


 

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Together, we're weaving a tapestry of positive change, stitching a brighter future for Indian River County. Your support is the thread that binds us, making our vision a reality. Every contribution, big or small, is an investment in our collective well-being. Thank you for being a vital part of the movement.


 

Luncheon with Gil Smart a huge success!



Over sixty community members recently gathered at the Vero Beach Country Club for a discussion about local environmental challenges. Led by Gil Smart of Friends of the Everglades and VoteWater, the event explored the connection between politics and the environment.


Smart, known for his thoughtful analysis, stressed the influence special interest money has on political decisions that impact our environment. He explained how environmental issues are often political issues, and real change requires working from within the political system. VoteWater is dedicated to exposing how political donations shape environmental policy.


Currently, VoteWater is researching how political contributions affect environmental legislation. An in-depth study will be released this summer and should offer significant insights, helping us follow the money. If you would like to see some of the early data, you can visit this site.


The event's turnout shows how much the community cares about protecting our natural resources. We thank Gil Smart for sharing his knowledge, Vero Beach Country Club for hosting, and everyone who participated in this important conversation. Together, we can make a positive difference for the environment and ensure a brighter future.



 

Work on long-delayed marina expansion starting at last (Vero News) - The Vero Beach marina expansion project, initially delayed by neighborhood opposition, is finally starting construction on new docks and a scaled-down dry-storage facility after securing funding and addressing regulatory concerns.


$40M Nopetro plant here will turn landfill gas into renewable natural gas (Vero News) - A new $40 million Nopetro plant in Indian River County will transform landfill gas into renewable natural gas, displacing carbon emissions, supplying local energy demand, and generating revenue for the county.


Garbage in, garbage out: Don't let trash haulers foul people's budgets (TCPalm) - Indian River County is considering mandatory garbage collection for all residents as its current subscription service contract expires, a proposal facing criticism over potential price hikes from waste haulers.


Vero’s property values continue to creep upward (Vero News) - Property values in Vero Beach continue to increase compared to the previous year, even though the rate of growth has slowed since the pandemic-era boom.


Three Corners schedule, Vero Beach adds meetings with developers (TCPalm) - Vero Beach City Council changed the Three Corners developer selection process to include one-on-one meetings with council members, despite concerns about potentially undermining the existing selection committee's work.


Business owners in Stuart feeling impacts of Lake Okeechobee water releases (WPTV) - Stuart businesses that depend on the St. Lucie River are reporting negative impacts from recent Lake Okeechobee water releases, including reduced income, sanitation concerns, and a decline in bookings.


New Assistant County Administrator (Indian River Guardian) - Indian River County has appointed Nancy Bunt as the new Assistant County Administrator, bringing extensive experience in local government, capital planning, infrastructure, and development to the position.


 


$25 Million Study Sparks Concerns Over Lake Okeechobee's Future


A $25 million earmark tucked into Florida's state budget is raising eyebrows. The money is designated for Florida Gulf Coast University's Water School to conduct a “comprehensive water quality study,” with a portion seemingly dedicated to Lake Okeechobee. The study arrives as Lake Okeechobee remains a battleground in the ongoing conflict between the sugar industry, environmental activists, and others over federal water level management.


Environmentalists fear the study may be a veiled attempt to delay or obstruct environmental regulations for the lake. They argue that the state has enough data to identify pollution sources in Lake Okeechobee but that there's a lack of political will to address them.

The proposed study's high cost and its quiet advancement during the legislative session, championed by the incoming Senate President who has close ties to the agriculture industry, further intensify this concern.


Florida has spent decades and millions of dollars studying water quality decline. The root cause is clear: inadequate political will to enforce existing regulations, particularly agricultural Best Management Practices (BMPs), lack of septic to sewer conversions, and stormwater runoff standards, rather than a lack of scientific knowledge.


The timing of the study aligns with the ongoing fight over Lake O water levels. With incoming Senate President Albritton representing the sugar industry's interests, there's concern the study could be used to counter efforts to curb agricultural pollution in the lake.

The study's report is due before the 2025 legislative session, suggesting this could be the prelude to a major battle in Tallahassee over the lake's future. While the outcome remains uncertain, one thing is clear: the health of our waters continues to be a highly politicized and contentious issue in Florida.


 

Help manatees? Sue DeSantis and Legislature to clean Florida waters (TCPalm) - Rather than focusing on reclassifying manatees as endangered, the author argues that cleaning Florida's polluted waterways to improve water quality and seagrass habitat is crucial for manatee survival, as their primary threat is starvation due to degraded water conditions.


Think Florida isn't developing fast enough? There's a bill to fix that (TCPalm) - Rep. Toby Overdorf's proposed bill aims to expedite the development review process in Florida by implementing strict deadlines for local government officials, raising concerns about potential micromanagement and favoring developers at the expense of careful local planning.


‘Very active’ 2024 hurricane season is forecast: AccuWeather (Miami Herald) - AccuWeather predicts an active 2024 hurricane season with above-average storms and hurricanes fueled by the combination of unusually warm Atlantic waters and the potential for a La Niña weather pattern.


No room at the (water storage) inn? Blame Big Sugar (VoteWater.org) - The lack of capacity for water storage in South Florida's stormwater treatment and water conservation areas is attributed to the prioritization of runoff from the Everglades Agricultural Area, predominantly used by sugarcane farms, highlighting a political system influenced by the sugar industry at the expense of regional ecosystems.


Mast: 2-week pause in discharges is 'woefully inefficient' (WPTV) - U.S. Rep. Brian Mast criticizes the Army Corps of Engineers for a brief, two-week pause in Lake Okeechobee discharges, arguing that only a long-term halt will prevent environmental damage to the St. Lucie Estuary.


Species diversity promotes ecosystem stability (McGill University) - A new study suggests that species diversity promotes ecosystem stability, supporting the earlier ecological belief that biodiversity is essential for maintaining a balanced ecosystem.


 

This is a fun and light video showing a manatee passing gas. Don't worry, it's a normal bodily function for manatees, and it helps them to expel gas from their digestive system. A manatoot.


 

As climate change threatens cultural treasures, museums get creative to conserve both energy and artifacts (Grist) - As climate change brings extreme weather and rising temperatures, museums are using new technologies and revising traditional conservation practices to protect their collections while also reducing their environmental impact.


Sinking Coastal Lands Will Exacerbate the Flooding from Sea Level Rise in 24 US Cities, New Research Shows (Inside Climate News) - New research reveals that sinking coastal lands will worsen the impact of sea-level rise, potentially flooding areas sooner than anticipated and affecting one out of every 50 residents in 24 US coastal cities by 2050.


Aruba Embraces the Rights of Nature and a Human Right to a Clean Environment (Inside Climate News) - Aruba's government is proposing a constitutional amendment that would recognize the inherent rights of nature alongside the human right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment, aligning with a growing environmental movement emphasizing the interdependence between humans and the natural world.


Your tax dollars may be funding the expansion of the plastics industry (Grist) - With demand for fossil fuels declining, the petrochemical industry is increasingly focused on plastic production, and taxpayers are subsidizing this harmful expansion through tax breaks, despite negative impacts on public health and the environment.


There are large accumulations of plastics in the ocean, even outside so-called garbage patch (ScienceDaily) - Researchers found that even remote regions of the North Pacific Ocean, including protected marine areas, contain significant quantities of plastic debris, highlighting that plastic pollution is a pervasive problem affecting the entire ocean ecosystem.


Petrochemicals Are Killing Us, a New Report Warns in the New England Journal of Medicine (Inside Climate News) - A review in the New England Journal of Medicine highlights the significant health risks posed by the dramatic increase in petrochemical use since the 1950s, linking these chemicals to a range of chronic diseases and advocating for reduced fossil fuel dependence to improve public health.


Say Hello to Biodegradable Microplastics (UCSD Today) - Scientists at UC San Diego and Algenesis have developed plant-based polymers that biodegrade into compost within seven months, presenting a significant advancement in creating sustainable alternatives to traditional petroleum-based plastics and microplastics.


Plastic chemicals are inescapable — and messing with our hormones (Grist) - Plastics, containing over 16,000 chemicals, pose significant health risks, particularly through endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) that mimic hormones and can lead to serious health issues; despite this, regulation remains minimal, emphasizing the need for a global approach to address the widespread and growing exposure to these harmful substances.


US task force aims to plug security leaks in water sector (The Register) - The US government is forming a Water Sector Cybersecurity Task Force to enhance cybersecurity in the water sector, addressing vulnerabilities and adopting best practices in response to increasing threats from foreign adversaries like Iran and China.


Victory on the Water Front (In the Public Interest) - A coalition of groups successfully halted the privatization of a Houston water purification plant, showcasing that dedicated activism can counter the trend of private companies taking control of essential public utilities like water.


 

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.


 

Learn more about the IRNA in this brief video. If you want to know even more, visit us online at www.indianriverna.com! Join us and make a difference!


 

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