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IRNA's Lunch with Gil Smart, the Legislative Session Wrap Up, and more!

March 16, 2024 Weekly Newsletter

Calling all conservationists! Join us for an inspiring 'Lunch and Learn'

Join us for a delicious lunch on March 27th at noon at the Vero Beach Country Club and connect with others who share a passion for the environment! We're thrilled to have Gil Smart, an advocate from Friends of the Everglades and VoteWater, lead a discussion on the environmental challenges facing our community. This talk will also cover water legislation and how our legislators voted on water bills. It's a great chance to learn, connect, and take action!

Tickets are just $30 (cash or check at the door), but space is limited, so RSVP now to or by replying to this email and save your spot!

Please share this event with your friends and family who care about the environment!


Welcome to our legislative update!

This session brought a mix of good and bad bills concerning the interests of the Indian River Neighborhood Association (IRNA) and our community. We've broken them down for you by passed and failed bills, highlighting which ones directly impact us, based on what we covered in past issues of the newsletter plus a few others of note.

Further down, we'll explore some positive environmental wins tucked within the state budget. We hope you find this in-depth reporting informative. Feel free to click on any of the bills listed to learn more about them.



  • HB 165/SB  338 - 'Safe Waterways Act': Establishes a statewide system under the Department of Health (DOH) for timely warnings and the issuance of beach, canal, and pool closures within 24 hours of identifying a safety concern. This bill is long overdue and has failed to pass in the last few sessions.

  • SB 484/HB 1049 - Flood Disclosure in the Sale of Real Property: Mandates sellers to disclose the flood history of their properties, safeguarding prospective property buyers against unforeseen flood risks.

  • HB 321/SB 602 - Release of Balloons: Prohibits the intentional release of balloons, reclassifying released balloons as litter and helping to stop plastic pollution.

  • SB 7040/HB 7053 - Ratification of the Department of Environmental Protection's Rules Relating to Stormwater: Stricter stormwater rules improve water quality, safeguarding aquatic ecosystems and reducing the risk of harmful algae blooms. This is a big deal and will impact a lot of our stormwater infrastructure going forward. 


  • SB 32/HB 1581 - Mangrove Replanting and Restoration: Would have required the Department of Environmental Protection to create stricter rules for mangrove replanting and restoration.

  • SB 298/HB 1079 - Saltwater Intrusion Vulnerability Assessments: Would have allowed coastal counties to receive funds from the Resilient Florida grant program to determine what areas are vulnerable to saltwater intrusion.

  • HB 723/SB 1364 - Everglades Protection Area: Ensured that any proposed amendments involving land within 2 miles of the protected area of the Everglades would be reviewed by the Department of Environmental Protection.



  • SB 812/HB 665 - Expedited Approval of Residential Building Permits: This bill compromises environmental and safety standards, erodes local control, and heavily leans towards developers, risking overdevelopment and sprawl.

  • SB 702/HB 1167 - Attorney Fees and Costs in Property Rights Disputes: Prioritizes property owners over environmental protection, dissuading legitimate environmental challenges with the threat of legal fees.

  • HB 87/SB 632 - "Taking of Bears" Legislation: Poses a threat to Florida's wildlife, allowing unnecessary bear deaths fueled by unfounded concerns.

  • SB 7014/HB 1597 - Ethics Bill: Alters how complaints to the state ethics commission are lodged, disqualifying critical sources from being used as grounds for raising ethical concerns.

  • HB 1537/SB 280 - "Party House" Bill: Favors major vacation rental platforms and out-of-state vacation rental industry players, raising concerns among Florida residents. This seems like it may grandfather both Vero Beach and Indian River County ordinances.


  • SB 738/HB 789 - Environmental Management: This bill threatened local autonomy and environmental protection, introducing prohibitive legal costs and complex stormwater designs. This was one of the worst bills of the session and it was through actions taken by people like you which helped to stop it.

  • SB 1150/HB 791 - Development Permits and Orders: Accelerated permit processing, risking poor urban planning and environmental harm.

  • SB 1184/HB 1221 - Land Use Development Regulations: Weakened the data foundation for planning and enforced dense development standards.

  • HB 527/SB 664 - Land and Water Management: Undermined local environmental governance by mandating eminent domain for buffer zones and centralizing dredge and fill regulation.

  • SB 1110/HB 1177 - Land Development: Compromised sustainable planning, shifting power from local governments and weakening impact fees.


2024 FL Budget: Crumbs, Not the Feast Our Land and Water Needs

Florida's 2024 budget includes some funding for environmental initiatives, but for those of us concerned about land and water conservation, it's a frustratingly small amount. While there are some positive aspects, they fall far short of the investment needed to truly address the region's (let alone the state's!) environmental challenges and the public's desire for change.

Water Quality: A Drop in the Bucket

The $75 million allotted for the Indian River Lagoon, while welcome, is less than previous years. It also does not meet the request by Governor DeSantis in Executive Order 23-06, where he asked for $100m annually.  It leaves serious questions about how this severely degraded ecosystem will fully recover. Septic-to-sewer conversions in various East Coast counties are essential upgrades, but more comprehensive solutions are needed to address the widespread water quality crisis. Reminder: we have over 30,000 septic tanks to convert in IRC Alone. At a rough cost of $20,000/ea, that's $600,000,000 -- just for our county, not the whole lagoon! Even if only part of the funds to convert came from the state, the funding amount is woefully inadequate for our needs.

Land Conservation: A Sliver of What's Needed

The combined $200 million dedicated to Florida Forever and the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program seems substantial. However, it's dwarfed by the over one billion dollars' worth of precious natural lands and working farms awaiting protection from rampant development. This starkly contrasts with the overwhelming public support for land conservation, as demonstrated by the passage of 2014's Amendment 1 – a voter mandate the Florida legislature continues to disregard. If the Legislature followed the outline from 2014's Florida Water and Land Conservation Initiative, we'd have been getting $1 billion per year in funds for land conservation for the last few years.

Indian River County: Some Relief, but Challenges Remain

While Indian River County will see benefits from the Lagoon funding, ongoing threats to local water sources, wetlands, and unsustainable development patterns persist. The budget fails to provide the comprehensive support this ecologically sensitive region needs. Where are our legislators? Why are they not bringing us home extra money for environmental projects? Look to Sen. Mayfield north of us and her recent email where on the bottom of page 2 she said, "Additionally, I have secured 25 local funding projects in the budget totaling $31,732,432 in appropriations of which $28,732,432 are specific to Brevard County." This begs the question, where is our own legislative delegation in securing funding for Indian River County?All the blame cannot go to our legislators, as cities and counties need to have projects ready to fund.  This is an area where local jurisdictions have shown a lack of readiness.  We'd like to see all our elected officials work together here more strategically.

The Bottom Line

The 2024 Florida budget offers only modest wins for us. Far bolder funding and a fundamental shift in land-use priorities are crucial to safeguard Florida's biodiversity and ensure clean water and waterways for future generations. Let's hope next year has better budget news for our county.


What Can You Do?

While the legislative session has brought both positive and negative developments, your voice still matters. We encourage you to take action and make your opinions known, especially regarding the bills that have passed but you find particularly egregious. Reach out to Governor Ron DeSantis and ask him to consider vetoing these bills:

Governor Ron DeSantis

Phone: 850-717-9337

Address: The Capitol, 400 S. Monroe St., Tallahassee, FL 32399-0001

Your involvement can make a difference in the future of our environment and community. Thank you for your continued support and advocacy.


There will be no IRNA Weekly Newsletter next week. We will look forward to being back on March 30, 2024!


Are you new? Do you want this newsletter in your inbox weekly? If so click here to sign up! We're happy to have you!

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.


Environmental group helps residents with Vero Beach's septic to sewer conversion (WPTV) - Local environmental groups including the CWC are facilitating the conversion of septic systems to city sewer connections for Vero Beach residents in an effort to reduce pollution and improve the health of the Indian River Lagoon.

Exploring a Stough Family Heirloom (Vero Beach Magazine) - To preserve the natural beauty of his family's 36-acre Florida property, Terry Stough has donated it to the Indian River Land Trust, ensuring that this historic land with its blackwater creek and diverse wildlife will remain protected.

Feds add new conservation area to wildlife refuge ahead of 121st b-day (Vero News) - To commemorate its upcoming 121st birthday, the U.S. Department of the Interior established the Everglades to Gulf Conservation Area, adding to the National Wildlife Refuge System and enhancing Florida land conservation efforts.

Three Corners Vero Beach in Pictures  (TCPalm) - Some great pictures of the Three Corners from across time. There are some great shots here!

U.S.1 intersection near airport to be expanded to ease traffic in Vero (TCPalm) - Vero Beach city officials have recommended expanding the intersection of US 1 and Aviation Boulevard to address growing traffic congestion in the area.

Too cool? Vero Beach Three Corners proposal too bold for old-timers? (TCPalm) - Reisman: Of the four proposals for developing the Three Corners property in Vero Beach, the plan by Clearpath stands out for its ambition to create a destination that would significantly enhance the area's appeal for both residents and visitors.

Aerial views of Lake O discharges through St. Lucie River (TCPalm) - Aerial photographs document the extent of dark water from Lake Okeechobee discharges flowing through Martin County waterways, including the St. Lucie River and the C-44 Canal.

Brightline financial statement shows more net loss, revenue, ridership (TCPalm) - Brightline's net losses increased in 2023 despite rising revenue and ridership from its Miami-Orlando service, due to significantly higher operating and interest expenses.

Sick Because of Roundup? These Bills Could Make Suing Impossible. (New Republic) - Desperate to limit its liability for the alleged cancer-causing effects of its Roundup weedkiller, Bayer is lobbying state legislatures to shield pesticide manufacturers from lawsuits and potentially overturn thousands of existing claims against the company.

By the Numbers: 130 Florida manatee deaths reported in first two months of 2024 (News4Jax) - During the first two months of 2024, a total of 130 manatee deaths were reported in Florida, with Lee County reporting the highest number of deaths.

Need to Tackle Microplastics (Environmental News Network) - The 1st Nano and Microplastics Australian Conference at Flinders University will focus on finding solutions to manage the global crisis of microplastics pollution, especially in marine environments, as the amount of plastic entering the oceans is projected to triple by 2040.

Baby Manatee And Mom Caught Hugging Each Other Underwater In Precious Footage (InspireMore) - In a heartwarming video captured by a Florida tour company, a baby manatee and its mother were seen sharing an affectionate underwater hug.

Orphaned Manatees Return to the Wild After 3 Years of Rehab (The New York Times) - After three years of rehabilitation at ZooTampa, three orphaned baby manatees, found in Florida as part of a devastating die-off in 2021, are now healthy enough to return to the wild.

Private utility wants to bypass county to connect water to new homes near Hyundai plant (WSAV-TV) - A private utility company is seeking changes to Georgia state law to allow it to provide water service to new homes near Hyundai's electric vehicle plant without local government approval, a move opposed by conservation groups and local government associations.

Coal Power Plunged Again in 2023 and Is Fading Away in the U.S. So What Replaces It? (Inside Climate News) - The decline of coal-fired power generation in the US accelerated in 2023, primarily driven by cheaper natural gas, with energy experts highlighting the challenges of replacing coal with reliable, affordable, and clean energy sources to address climate change.

Unique way to track carbon emissions in bodies of water (ScienceDaily) - Scientists at the University of New Hampshire developed a modified sensor to optimize the measurement of carbon dioxide emissions in moving bodies of water, providing a valuable tool for understanding climate change and land use impacts.

You can apply for the American Climate Corps next month (Grist) - Next month, the Biden administration will launch an online jobs portal for the American Climate Corps, modeled after the Civilian Conservation Corps, with the initial hiring of a few hundred young people for jobs in fields like energy efficiency and disaster preparedness.

New Study Shows Planting Trees May Not Be as Good for the Climate as Previously Believed (Inside Climate News) - A new study indicates that the climate benefits of planting trees may be less than previously thought due to the complex interplay of factors like reduced albedo, increased atmospheric methane, and the production of ozone.


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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