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  • Writer's pictureIRNA

January 13, 2024 Weekly Newsletter


This week the Indian River County Board of County Commissioners passed a resolution in support of Indian River County's strict rainy season ban and urban fertilizer ordinance. IRNA feels that this marks a significant victory for environmental advocacy. Spearheaded by Chairwoman Susan Adams, the unanimous backing by the commissioners reflects a commitment to safeguarding local environmental interests. This development is particularly important given the 2023 legislative session's freeze on new strong fertilizer ordinances. This was a move by the state legislature intended to undermine existing local regulations by asserting state preemption over local governance.


The Indian River Neighborhood Association expresses our appreciation for this proactive step taken by the Indian River County Board of County Commissioners. The resolution not only reaffirms the county's dedication to environmental conservation but also sets a precedent for other local governments grappling with similar legislative pressures.


Historically, urban fertilizer ordinances in Florida, initiated in 2007, have proven effective in curbing nutrient pollution in water bodies, a factor critical for both environmental health and local economies. The recent legislative freeze poses a formidable challenge to these ongoing efforts.


Encouraged by this resolution, the IRNA is committed to furthering strong environmental policies and aims to engage local cities in adopting similar measures. The objective is to foster collective action at the local level, potentially swaying the state legislative delegation, provided they can withstand pressure from special interest groups.


This resolution is not just a victory for Indian River County but also a symbol of hope for communities striving to uphold environmental integrity in the face of complex legislative environments. Once again we extend gratitude to the five county commissioners for their endorsement of this crucial initiative.


 

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In 2023, we made strides towards a greener tomorrow. To extend our impact, we humbly request your continued partnership. A donation today helps us secure a sustainable Indian River County for all. Thank you for being a pillar of our progress.




 

Annual Sebastian Luncheon at Woody's:

Mark Your Calendars for January 17th


You are cordially invited to our annual Sebastian Luncheon at Woody's on January 17th at noon. Woody's is located at 13600 US-1 #18, Sebastian, FL 32958. This event presents a blend of community engagement and an enlightening program.


This year, we are delighted to welcome Karen Miller, Public Works Director/City Engineer, and Brian Benton, City Manager of Sebastian. They will be discussing the city's new stormwater master plan, offering valuable insights into how this initiative will impact our community, particularly in terms of stormwater management strategies going forward.

Woody's will be catering a variety of options for the luncheon, including their Salmon Caesar Salad, Baby Back Ribs, Loaded Mesquite Grilled Chicken Breast, with Woody's Banana Pudding for dessert. When RSVPing, please indicate your preferred lunch choice.


The luncheon is scheduled for January 17th, starting at noon. The attendance fee is $25 per person, payable at the door via cash or check. This is not just an opportunity to enjoy a good meal but also a chance to acquire important knowledge about the future developments in the city.


To confirm your attendance, RSVP by replying to this email with your lunch selection or send your confirmation to info@indianriverna.com. We eagerly anticipate your participation in this significant gathering!


 

This week in the legislative session, Florida’s environmental protection efforts faced a daunting challenge with the introduction of Senate Bill 738. This bill, generating substantial controversy, proposes a significant change in legal proceedings involving the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and Water Management Districts. According to SB 738, any party losing a legal dispute against these agencies would be required to pay up to $50,000 in court costs and attorney fees. Critics argue that this could substantially impede public involvement in environmental matters.


Opponents of the bill, including many Floridians and environmental advocates, assert that SB 738 could discourage individuals, neighborhood groups, and non-profits from challenging development decisions due to financial risks. This might effectively silence their voices in environmental advocacy, potentially undermining the democratic process. It should be noted that existing laws already serve to deter frivolous lawsuits, making the punitive approach of SB 738 towards legitimate challenges seem unnecessary and excessively harsh.


In response to the bill's contentious aspects, Senator Polsky recently proposed an amendment to remove the requirement for the losing party to cover the opposing side's legal expenses. This amendment is considered crucial for preserving public access to legal channels for environmental protection if the bill needs to pass at all.


SB 738 has passed one committee but as it makes it's way through the legislative process, the urgency for action increases. We were disappointed to see Sen. Mayfield supporting this legislation. We are calling on constituents to voice their concerns to their representatives, emphasizing the need to oppose the bill to protect Florida's environmental future. In particular, our own Senator Grall and Representative Brackett need to hear from constituents concerned about the bill and it's implications. They can be contacted at Grall.Erin.Web@flsenate.gov and robert.brackett@myfloridahouse.gov, respectively, to express your opposition to a bill that poses a serious threat to environmental advocacy in Florida.


IRNA is committed to keeping you informed about the latest developments from the Legislative Session, particularly regarding issues that touch our environment and quality of life. In our update next week, we'll dive into a detailed analysis of various bills, highlighting the promising, the concerning, and the problematic ones.


 

Bill would place Hospital and Mosquito District under microscope (Vero News) - A Florida House subcommittee proposes a bill requiring voters to decide every 10 years on the continuation of local entities like the Indian River County Hospital District, focusing on accountability, fiscal transparency, and the potential for reevaluation or dissolution of these special districts.


DEP issues final order to punish Port St. Lucie resort for destroying mangrove forest (TCPalm) - Sandpiper Bay Resort is ordered by the Department of Environmental Protection to restore a destroyed mangrove forest along the St. Lucie River, facing substantial penalties and a five-year monitoring period for one of the state's most severe mangrove-cutting violations.


Indian River County launches crackdown on vacation rentals, expands code-enforcement staff, hours (TCPalm) - Indian River County has intensified its enforcement of vacation rental regulations by hiring a dedicated code-enforcement officer and extending office hours, in response to a 700% increase in rentals and community complaints about rule-breaking and disturbances.


Can actions of overbearing Florida Legislature have deadly unintended consequences? (TCPalm) - The overreach of the Florida Legislature in matters like code complaints and fertilizer regulations, potentially leading to tragic outcomes like the fatal shooting in Stuart, underscores the need for respecting local government autonomy and reconsidering state-level interventions in local issues.


Is there a connection between U-Haul users and feral hogs? (Indian River Guardian) - The Melbourne-Palm Bay metro area, identified by a U-Haul study as the top growth market in the U.S., which, like all Florida counties, is dealing with an increasing feral hog population, a situation tracing back to the introduction of pigs by Spanish explorers and further compounded by later introductions of European boars.


Florida GOP lawmaker wants to end universal mail-in voting (Orlando Sentinel) - Florida GOP lawmaker Blaise Ingoglia proposes a bill to eliminate universal mail-in voting, reverting to previous absentee ballot rules and potentially impacting millions who utilized this method, a move met with criticism from election officials and concerns over its effect on voter accessibility and election processes.


 

Join the Pelican Island Audubon Society at their 5th annual conference, "Transforming Landscapes for a Sustainable Future," on January 20, 2024, at the Emerson Center, Vero Beach, FL. Starting at 8 a.m., this event focuses on reducing pollution in Florida's waterways by promoting native plant landscaping over traditional grass lawns.


Key highlights include expert speaker presentations, native plant sale by Native Butterfly Flowers Nursery and Nancy’s Nursery, and practical planting demonstrations. Registration is $25 in advance or $35 at the door, including a box lunch. The conference emphasizes the benefits of native plants in conserving water, reducing the need for fertilizers and herbicides, and supporting local wildlife.


For more details and speaker bios, visit the society's website. Free admission is available for HOA board presidents. This event is a crucial initiative towards preserving Florida's unique habitats and waterways.


Learn more and buy tickets here.


 

Massive manatee meet-up caught on video (Boing Boing) - Manatees gathered in large numbers near the shore of Crystal River, Florida, at Three Sisters Springs, seeking warmth from the cold weather, highlighting the importance of the Southwest Florida Management District's recent shoreline restoration project which aims to prevent erosion and improve water quality, habitat, and safety.


The Plastic Chemicals Hiding in Your Food (Consumer Reports) - Consumer Reports has investigated the presence of plasticizers, such as phthalates, in food and food packaging, revealing that these chemicals are widespread in the food supply and have been linked to various health concerns, including endocrine disruption, diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, cancer, birth defects, premature birth, and infertility, with the chemicals being challenging to avoid due to their ubiquity in food and other products.


Bottled water has up to 100 times more plastic particles than previously thought (Grist) - A study has revealed that bottled water contains significantly more nanoplastic particles, approximately 10 to 100 times higher than previously estimated, with potential health implications as these tiny particles can pass through the gastrointestinal tract, lungs, and even impact unborn babies via the placenta, leading to concerns about their toxicity and the need for further research and potential policy action to address plastic pollution.


Plastics impact on Florida’s coastal environment may be worse than you think | Opinion (Miami Herald) - Plastic pollution in Florida's coastal environment, including ingestion by marine animals like manatees and sea turtles, is causing severe harm, but Florida lags behind in addressing the issue as it doesn't allow local jurisdictions to ban plastic, despite 13 other states implementing such bans, and the global problem of ocean plastic pollution continues to worsen with microplastics entering the food chain and threatening ecosystems and wildlife.


AI could yield cheaper, better manatee counts, new study finds (Florida Today) - Artificial intelligence (AI) is being explored as a tool to improve the accuracy and affordability of real-time manatee counts in Florida, using deep learning to teach a computer how to recognize the distinctive elliptical shape of manatees in surveillance camera images, potentially aiding biologists in reacting more swiftly to threats facing this species, which has been challenging to count manually due to factors like glare, overlapping manatees, and observer biases.


US Groundwater Is Being Shipped Overseas: How Western states are selling off their aquifers to China and Gulf States (Mother Jones) - Exporting alfalfa hay from drought-stricken American states, particularly Arizona, effectively ships out vast quantities of groundwater to countries like China and Middle Eastern nations, exacerbating the U.S. water crisis and highlighting the need for better water management and regulation.


Can Florida’s corals survive climate change? Fate of one small reef may hold the answer (Miami Herald) - The alarming bleaching of Cheeca Rocks, a vibrant reef in the Florida Keys, during a record-breaking heatwave in South Florida, has sparked an urgent, large-scale scientific effort to assess and potentially rescue the region's coral reefs, which are critical indicators of the ecosystem's ability to withstand climate change.


 

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has urged Florida to enhance its water quality standards, citing current measures as insufficient for protecting human health. The EPA's focus is on updating criteria for 37 pollutants, including benzene and toluene, and strengthening standards for 40 others like fluorene and chloroform. This move follows Florida's failure to finalize updated water quality standards proposed in 2016. The EPA warns that without state action, it will set federal standards for Florida's surface waters. Florida's Department of Environmental Protection is now evaluating steps to address these concerns and update standards in compliance with the Clean Water Act.



 

Protecting Coral ‘Nurseries’ as Important as Safeguarding Established Reefs (ENN) - New research from Arizona State University emphasizes the importance of identifying and safeguarding marine ecosystems, including areas where coral larvae are more likely to thrive, to ensure the future conservation and restoration of coral reefs, given the growing threats from climate change.


The Montana Youth Who Sued to Save the Environment—and Won! (Diane Ravitch's blog) - A group of Montana youth successfully filed a lawsuit against the state for failing to take action to reverse climate change, with the judge ruling in their favor, marking a significant moment for climate litigation in the United States.


Will Arizona close a loophole that lets developers build without water? (Grist) - Water concerns persist in Arizona as legislators debate the possibility of weakening the standards governing new developments, potentially allowing thousands of homes to be built in water-insecure areas near Phoenix and Tucson, despite recent water supply issues in Rio Verde Foothills, highlighting the need for broader reforms in water regulations and development standards. Water supply is an issue all over and we need to take it more seriously!


Where has all the honey gone? Scientists point to factors in declining yields (The Guardian) - Declining honey yields in the US are attributed to factors such as environmental degradation, herbicide use, monocultural farmland conversion, declining soil productivity, and the changing climate, which affects beekeepers and their broods, while also posing broader challenges for bees and pollinators.


2023 confirmed as world's hottest year on record (BBC News) - The year 2023 has been confirmed as the warmest on record, with temperatures about 1.48C warmer than the long-term average before significant fossil fuel burning, driven by human-caused climate change and exacerbated by the natural El Niño weather event, raising concerns about breaching key international climate targets and experiencing more extreme weather events.


2023 in clean energy: Wind, solar and batteries grow despite economic challenges (AP News) - Despite economic challenges in 2023, the world significantly expanded its renewable energy capacity, particularly in solar and wind power, with China, Europe, and the U.S. breaking records in solar installations, and global wind energy addition reaching enough to power 80 million homes.


 

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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