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  • Writer's pictureIRNA

July 22, 2023 Weekly Newsletter


The City of Vero Beach held its Budget workshop on July 17 and 18. Discussions about rolling back the millage rate have persisted for a while, positioning Vero Beach with the fourth lowest rate among similar-sized cities in the state (around 17,000 residents). Moreover, with significant projects underway, such as the Three Corners development, Marina renovation, and relocation of the Water and Sewer plant for compliance with the State of Florida's Advanced Waste Treatment mandate, it's clear that despite the growing tax base from rising real estate prices, additional revenue is essential. This will help address the deferred maintenance and renovation, which has made our cherished city appear a bit "worn at the seams."


Our concerns have been acknowledged. Soon, there will be a police presence on the water, assisting in the identification of derelict vessels for the Fish and Wildlife department and addressing boats speeding through our Manatee zones. The introduction of the draft Stormwater Master Plan has empowered Public Works to pinpoint crucial projects that will aid the Lagoon's rejuvenation.


After comprehensive deliberations, City Council agreed on a "not to exceed" millage rate of 2.768, indicating a 2.7% rise from the previous year. This adjustment will increase the average tax assessment by approximately $23.00, shifting our position from the fourth to the fifth most affordable rate among 32 cities with comparable populations. It is hoped that this modest hike will help our city address the glaring deferred maintenance issues. For a tangible example, one only needs to visit the restroom facilities at JayCee Park…


 

The IRNA and the CWC formally submitted a letter to the Vero Beach City Council, highlighting our primary concerns for the 2023/2024 fiscal year budget. We are pleased to note that our emphasis on water-related priorities was both well-received and adequately addressed.



 

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End special interest influence and the politics of pollution.

Constitutionalize wise governance of Florida waters.



 

News Headlines and Articles

Your yard leads to Indian River Lagoon. Want to preserve trout, manatees, dolphin? Then ... (TCPalm) - Dr. Grant Gilmore discusses the interconnectedness of Florida's coastal waters, emphasizing the impact of human activities on the Indian River Lagoon and its inhabitants, particularly spotted sea trout, and highlights the detrimental effects of herbicides on seagrass and the entire aquatic ecosystem. If you only read one article in this newsletter, we suggest this one!


Lane closures coming: Four years of road rage ahead (Vero News) - Lane closures on the 17th Street Bridge in Vero Beach, Florida, will cause significant traffic congestion and delays for the next four years as repairs and reconstruction take place, affecting both residents and commuters, with the project expected to be completed in the summer of 2028.


County buoyed by windfall from state for beach work (Vero News) - Indian River County in Florida will receive $7.7 million in state funding for beach replenishment, more than double the expected amount, but the funds must be used by 2025, necessitating prompt action to begin construction after November 1, when Sea Turtle Nesting Season ends.


County looking to lure state funding for lagoon projects’ wish list (Vero News) - Indian River County in Florida aims to secure $3.2 million in state grant funding for a range of water-quality projects outlined in a draft lagoon management plan, including living shorelines, muck removal, and transitioning residents away from septic tanks, as part of a $100 million environmental initiative announced by Governor Ron DeSantis.


Case of the Mangled Mangroves in PSL shows need for greater environmental responsibility (TCPalm) - The incident involving the removal of nearly 1,000 mangroves in Port St. Lucie by the owners of Sandpiper Bay Resort, who falsely claimed it was due to a tornado and lacked knowledge of mangrove protection laws, emphasizes the importance of increased environmental responsibility and awareness among property owners, highlighting the ecological significance and storm protection role of mangroves.


Hundreds of thousands of vote-by-mail requests erased from Florida’s system (NBC-2) - IMPORTANT: Hundreds of thousands of vote-by-mail requests have been deleted from Florida's system, impacting upcoming elections; voters must contact their county to request a ballot be mailed to them. This could impact you. Request a new vote-by-mail ballot here.


Dirty Money Alert: Next Florida Senate President gets $25k in Big Sugar cash (VoteWater) - Big Sugar companies, U.S. Sugar and Florida Crystals, have contributed $454,000 to political campaigns and PACs from April 1-June 30, with $25,000 going to the political committee of Ben Albritton, the Florida Senate Majority Leader and future Senate President, raising concerns about potential influence over water policies and pollution regulation in Florida.


DeSantis promised in 2018 that he would clean up Florida’s toxic algae. The algae are still blooming (WUSF News) - Despite promising to clean up Florida's toxic algae during his 2018 campaign, Governor Ron DeSantis's environmental policies and measures have fallen short, with concerns raised by environmental advocates about nutrient pollution, regulatory enforcement, and inadequate infrastructure projects to address the issue, while toxic algae continue to bloom in Florida's waterways.


 

Images and stats provided by the Save the Manatee Club.

 

Tell Congress: Stop subsidizing the sugar industry's abuses (Everglades Foundation) - Join the Sugar Reform Now campaign by signing the U.S. Farm Bill petition to advocate for the protection of our waters and to end subsidies for the sugar industry's detrimental practices.


Sewage, Not Fertilizer Fueling Nitrogen Surge in Indian River Lagoon (Coastal News Today) - A study by Florida Atlantic University's Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute reveals that sewage, not fertilizer, is the main cause of environmental problems in Florida's Indian River Lagoon, with septic systems contributing 79% of nitrogen loading compared to 21% from residential fertilizers, leading researchers to call for a focus on reducing human waste nutrient inputs into the lagoon. Editor's note: this is why IRNA and other groups like the CWC have been pushing for Septic to Sewer conversions for several years.


CDC report: People and animals are increasingly getting sick from toxic algae (USA Today) - A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reveals that harmful algal blooms (HABs) are increasing nationwide, with 117 human illnesses and over 2,700 animal illnesses reported in 16 states in 2021, primarily caused by exposure to toxic blue-green algae, highlighting the need for better management and mitigation strategies.


We rallied to save manatees once. Can we do it again? (National Geographic) - The manatee population in Florida has rebounded thanks to conservation efforts, but they still face significant threats from pollution and habitat degradation, such as the loss of seagrass. The article highlights the need for continued restoration efforts, such as improving water quality and preserving aquatic vegetation, to ensure the survival of these beloved creatures.


Election aside, this Indian River issue will spark lots of trash talk and controversy (TCPalm) - Indian River County in Florida is expected to have a lot of controversy and debate in the next year or two regarding the type of garbage service residents will have starting in October 2025, as the county plans ahead to determine the best course of action and avoid past issues faced by other cities.


Florida fishing: Red snapper season ends as spiny lobster mini-season begins July 26-27 (TCPalm) - Red snapper fishing season has ended, but the spiny lobster mini-season is about to begin on July 26-27 in Florida, while other fishing seasons such as mutton snapper, commercial lobster, alligator hunting, redfish harvest, and snook are opening or reopening on specific dates.


 

Before your boat becomes derelict, the Florida Vessel Turn-In Program (VTIP) allows vessel owners who have received a written citation or warning for their vessel being at risk to voluntarily surrender their unwanted vessel to the FWC. Surrendered vessels will be removed from Florida waters and destroyed at no cost to the vessel owner. The costs of removing, destroying and disposing of eligible VTIP vessels are 100% funded by this program.


 

Other News

Radioactive Road Proposal Faces Roadblocks Aplenty (Ancient Islands) - A proposed plan to use a toxic byproduct of fertilizer production, called phosphogypsum, for road construction in Florida is facing hurdles as it awaits review by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, with opponents raising concerns about potential environmental impacts and legal challenges expected.


Fukushima’s Radioactive Water Is Going to Be Pumped Into the Ocean—and That’s Fine (Wired) - Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant is set to release 1.3 million metric tons of radioactive water into the ocean, a plan that has faced opposition from local fishers and protests in South Korea, although many scientists believe the discharge will be safe as the concentrations of radionuclides in the water are extremely low and comparable releases of tritium occur routinely around the world from nuclear facilities.


Oysters Grown With Solar Power Produce Faster, Better Results, Are Planted In Sanctuary Reef (Chesapeake Bay Magazine) - Solar Oysters, a high-tech company, and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation have successfully planted 356,600 oysters onto a sanctuary reef using the Solar Oysters Production System (SOPS), a solar-powered method that resulted in faster growth and higher survival rates, potentially revolutionizing oyster cultivation in the Chesapeake Bay.


Scottsdale bans natural grass in front yards of new houses to conserve water amid Arizona’s drought (CNN) - The Scottsdale City Council in Arizona has unanimously passed an ordinance banning natural grass in front yards of new single-family homes constructed or permitted after August 15, in an effort to conserve water during the state's severe drought, with 86% of Scottsdale water customers supporting the measure, and the city aiming to lead in water conservation practices and set an example for other communities in the region.


In the Everglades, a clash pits a leading scientist against his former employer (WUSF News) - A bitter legal battle has erupted between Tom Van Lent, a leading scientist in the Florida Everglades restoration effort, and his former employer, the Everglades Foundation, with allegations of stealing trade secrets and destroying files; the dispute raises concerns about the tension between science and politics in the massive restoration effort and whether scientific findings that should be public are being kept secret, highlighting the need for transparency and open communication in the restoration process.


No-swim advisory in effect after 15 million gallons of sewage spilled into Intracoastal off Boynton (Sun Sentinel) - A broken pipe caused an estimated 15 million gallons of sewage to spill into the Intracoastal Waterway near Boynton Beach, leading to a no-swim advisory due to health risks caused by fecal matter in the water, with concerns raised about the need to invest in local infrastructure and improve water quality standards.


Aventura Residents Protest After Community Garden Ripped Out for Pickleball Project (Miami New Times) - Aventura residents are protesting the removal of the community garden at Founders Park South to make way for pickleball courts, arguing that it destroys the park's serene setting and character, and violates a covenant requiring the park to be maintained in its original form; the city claims there were limited options for building the courts and plans to provide a new location for the community garden.


Why is this city in the Keys the hottest spot in Florida? Weather service has answers (Miami Herald) - Marathon, a city in the Florida Keys, consistently sets high temperature records, which meteorologists attribute to the location of the National Weather Service's sensors, the presence of pavement near the sensors, and the shorter period of temperature records compared to other areas in the Keys.


 

Download Audubon’s FREE Summer Naturalist Magazine here.


 


 

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