July 29, 2023 Weekly Newsletter
The St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD) is contemplating a rollback of its ad valorem tax rate for the 13th year in a row. While this might seem like a fiscal adjustment, the implications are far-reaching. Such a move would inevitably shrink the resources available for crucial water projects.
This is especially concerning given that our state legislators have just unanimously endorsed the Environmental Protection Act (HB 1379 of 2023). This groundbreaking legislation instituted the Indian River Lagoon Protection Program, an initiative that underscores the national significance of the Indian River Lagoon.
The program is designed to combat the declining health of our water systems. Current challenges include archaic wastewater, septic, and stormwater infrastructures that leach pollutants into the lagoon. The result? Deteriorating water quality and environmental hazards like harmful algal blooms. Slashing funds for these projects not only jeopardizes the health of our lagoon but also poses a risk that local jurisdictions might fall short in complying with state mandates.
Considering these factors, our call to action is clear: We urge the SJRWMD to uphold its current tax rate, ensuring steadfast support for indispensable water projects.
The chart above illustrates the significant reduction in the SJRWMD millage rate over the past 25 years, leading to substantial constraints on available funding for projects. If the trend from 1997 were to continue unabated, the district's millage rate will be zeroed out in 2039.
We charted a bit more data for you to understand this. In this chart, the blue line represents the actual ad valorem revenue derived from the millage rate. Meanwhile, the red line showcases the combined property value across the 18-county district, indicating the tax base. For a perspective adjusted for inflation on the ad valorem revenue, please refer to the green line on this chart.
For a clearer perspective, consider the graphic below sourced directly from SJRWMD's official website. It underscores the minimal contribution required from our community to amass significant funding. By maintaining a steady millage rate rather than rolling it back, we position ourselves for a more sustainable and impactful future.
Our advocacy, in collaboration with our partners and allies, has emphasized the importance of maintaining the tax rate. We've penned letters advocating for this stance to several key stakeholders, including the St. John's River Water Management District, the Florida League of Cities, and the Florida Association of Counties. Additionally, we are in the process of drafting a letter directed to the office of Governor DeSantis. We will keep you in the loop and may request your help in a letter writing campaign to the Governor on this important issue.
Our collective aim is to rally various groups and interests to unite in safeguarding our water resources. Addressing the challenges our waterways face demands a comprehensive community effort. Every individual and organization has a role to play, and we're deeply grateful for the unwavering support many have shown on this front. Together, we can make a significant difference.
Advocacy efforts, like the ones we've highlighted, are fueled by the unwavering support of our community. Every chart we create, every letter we draft, and every message we disseminate is made possible by you. While we strive to operate efficiently, with a majority of our workforce being dedicated volunteers, there are inevitable costs associated with running impactful campaigns and initiatives such as our weekly newsletter.
The IRNA relies entirely on contributions from individuals like you to continue our mission. Your generosity enables us to champion vital causes and ensure our community remains informed and empowered. As we work towards a sustainable future, we humbly request your continued support.
Your contribution is more than just a donation; it's a commitment to education, advocacy, and a brighter tomorrow for our environment. We genuinely couldn't do this without you. Thank you for standing with us.
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The Campaign for the Right to Clean Water aims to gather 900k signatures by November 30th. Additionally, they are seeking funds for direct mailing of petitions. If you're interested and able to contribute, find more information at this link. Your support could make a significant impact!
News Headlines and Articles
Florida’s Environment Spirals Downward (PEER) - A new analysis by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) reveals that anti-pollution enforcement in Florida under Governor Ron DeSantis has significantly declined, resulting in toxic algae blooms, sewage overflows, and manatee die-offs, with enforcement actions decreasing in the last two years and the pollution burden on Florida's lands and waters increasing, despite more funding for environmental programs.
Toxic blue-green algae detected in Stick Marsh North (Vero News) - Toxic blue-green algae has been detected in Stick Marsh North in Indian River County, Florida, prompting health officials to issue a public alert, advising against drinking, swimming, or using watercraft in the affected waters, and cautioning people and pets to avoid contact with the algae due to potential health risks such as skin irritation, nausea, and gastrointestinal issues.
We need to prepare now for future water shortages | Opinion (Sun Sentinel) - The South Florida Water Coalition, highlights the concerns about water shortages in South Florida due to climate impacts, population growth, and the unpredictability of weather patterns, emphasizing the importance of water conservation efforts and investing in alternative water supply methods to secure the region's water future.
Florida’s Environmental Failures Are a Warning for the Rest of the U.S. (TIME) - Florida's environmental failures serve as a warning for the U.S., highlighting the need for wise governance and the preservation of ecosystems to create a better future.
VoteWater Deep Dive: Seagrass is returning to the Indian River Lagoon! … Or is it? (VoteWater) - Seagrass is showing signs of returning to the Indian River Lagoon, particularly in the southern area, thanks to improving water quality, but there are concerns that continued development, Lake O discharges, and pollution could threaten its recovery.
There’s big climate money out there for small towns. But will they get it? (Coastal News Today) - Local governments in small towns across the USA have access to significant federal funding for climate resilience projects, but the complexities of applying for competitive grants and the lack of grant writers on staff pose challenges, potentially exacerbating inequities in accessing funds for communities in need.
EPA Releases Draft Strategy to Better Protect Endangered Species from Herbicide Use (EPA) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released a draft Herbicide Strategy to protect over 900 federally endangered and threatened species from agricultural herbicides while ensuring continued access to important pesticide tools for farmers.
Maintain healthy landscape and conserve water (News-Press) - Native Florida Plants are the best solution here, but if they aren’t in the cards, listen to some of this advice!
A drone pilot captured some Beautiful Spotted eagle Rays at Sexton Plaza in Vero Beach on Jul 14th 2023.
Retired engineer will ‘quarterback’ the planned Three Corners project (Vero News) - Retired civil engineer Peter Polk, founder of Occam Consulting Group, will be the contract-based project manager for Vero Beach's Three Corners development, overseeing all aspects of the project and working closely with City Manager Monte Falls and Planning Director Jason Jeffries.
Brightline tests give county taste of speedy trains to come (Vero News) - Been stuck at a crossing lately? Brightline conducted tests at speeds of up to 110 mph through Indian River County as it prepares to launch regular service between Orlando and South Florida on September 1, offering 32 trains per day in each direction.
Miami to Orlando Brightline opening update: What is likely timeframe for inaugural trip? (Palm Beach Post) - Brightline officials are preparing for the launch of their South Florida-to-Orlando route, with ticket sales expected to begin during Labor Day weekend, but the inaugural ride is likely to take place in mid to late August.
Breeze Airways expanding Vero Beach service with flights to Providence (TCPalm) - Breeze Airways will expand its flights in and out of Vero Beach Regional Airport by adding service to Providence, Rhode Island, starting on November 2 with flights on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays, targeting people from the Northeast looking to escape the winter and potentially increasing tourism in Vero Beach.
Environmentalists worry DeSantis will usurp home rule over local fertilizer ordinances (TCPalm) - Environmentalists are concerned that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis's budget ban on local fertilizer ordinances may lead to weaker regulations and harm waterways and ecosystems.
CDC report: People and animals are increasingly getting sick from toxic algae (USA Today) - A new CDC report reveals an increase in human and animal illnesses due to exposure to toxic algae in natural water bodies across the US, with 117 human illnesses and 2,715 animal illnesses reported in 16 states in 2021, mostly during HAB events peaking in August. The report highlights concerns about the worsening impact of harmful algal blooms and their potential health, environmental, and economic consequences.
Editorial: How secrecy threatens our water supply (Yahoo News) -The Orlando Sentinel highlights the growing concerns about water contamination in Florida, focusing on hard-to-detect chemicals like 1,4-dioxane and emphasizing the need for transparency and a robust national response to ensure clean water.
Homeowners here are fighting rising insurance premiums (Vero News) - The article discusses homeowners in Vero Beach, Florida, fighting against rising insurance premiums by exploring options such as self-insurance, increasing deductibles, and taking advantage of a relatively more honest insurance environment compared to other parts of Florida.
How climate change could cause a home insurance meltdown (Coastal News Today) - The Orlando Sentinel Editorial Board discusses the threats posed to Central Florida's water supply by contaminants, particularly "forever chemicals" like 1,4-dioxane, highlighting the challenges faced by water utilities in ensuring clean and safe drinking water and the need for increased awareness, research, and regulation to address the issue effectively.
Florida fishing: Spiny lobster mini-season excites divers from Sebastian to Florida Keys (TCPalm) - The spiny lobster mini-season excites divers from Sebastian to the Florida Keys, offering them a chance to catch lobsters before the commercial trappers, with about 40,000 people participating annually.
The Indian River County Lagoon Management Plan (LMP) pinpoints 17 essential factors influencing the Indian River Lagoon's health. Divided into five focal areas linked to county departments, the plan not only sets forth goals but also recommends projects and best practices. This guide underscores the importance of collaborative efforts in safeguarding Florida's treasured habitat. Essential to its development and success are public meetings, ensuring community involvement. Please plan to attend either the August 10 or 17 workshop, and please note the August 17 workshop has virtual options. Use this link to download and comment on the plan.
Our Favorite Female Bird Shots From the 2023 Audubon Photography Awards (Audubon) - The 2023 Audubon Photography Awards feature inspiring images of female birds, capturing their beauty and showcasing photographers' dedication to highlighting the often overlooked sex.
A New Report About Human Waste and Texas Beaches Is More Than Just Gross (Coastal News Today) - In 2022, 90% of the 61 Texas beaches tested were found to have potentially unsafe levels of fecal contamination on at least one day, with rapid development, impervious surfaces, and outdated sewage systems contributing to water pollution.
The Microplastic Crisis Is Getting Exponentially Worse (Wired) - Microplastic pollution is rapidly increasing in the Arctic Ocean, with researchers finding that contamination has been growing exponentially alongside the rise in plastic production, emphasizing the need for global action to reduce plastic ocean input and protect the environment.
Eight excellent books on sea level rise risk for U.S. cities (Coastal News Today) - For individuals living near the ocean, there are several excellent books on sea level rise and climate change-related flood risks. These books provide valuable insights and recommendations on how to address the challenges posed by rising sea levels and potential flooding in coastal regions. Some notable titles include "The Great Displacement: Climate Change and the Next American Migration" by Jake Bittle, "The Water Will Come" by Jeff Goodell, "Extreme Cities: The Peril and Promise of Urban Life in the Age of Climate Change" by Ashley Dawson, and "Retreat From a Rising Sea: Hard Choices in an Age of Climate Change" by Orrin Pilkey, among others.
What Warmer Oceans Mean For The Environment—From Dangerous Storms To Severe Flooding (Forbes) - Rising ocean temperatures worldwide, including South Florida and the Mediterranean Sea, are leading to various environmental consequences such as coral mortality, severe storms, and higher sea levels, with the decade's ocean temperatures warming 24% faster than previous decades, predicting a potential 12-inch sea level rise by the century's end.
South Florida waters hit hot tub level and may have set world record for warmest seawater (AP News) - Seawater temperatures around the tip of Florida have reached triple digits, potentially setting a world record for the hottest seawater ever measured, with significant consequences for aquatic life such as coral bleaching and death, and the potential fueling of hurricanes due to the warmer water.
Fertilizer plants store some of Florida’s most toxic waste. Can they hold up to storms? (Miami Herald) - Phosphate plants in Florida store toxic waste, including radioactive phosphogypsum, raising concerns about their ability to withstand storms and the potential environmental hazards they pose to nearby communities and water sources.
The movement to add an environmental rights amendment to every state’s constitution (Allegheny Front) - Green Amendments for the Generations, founded by Maya K. van Rossum, aims to add language to state constitutions, known as green amendments, recognizing and protecting environmental rights such as clean air, pure water, a stable climate, and healthy environments with the same constitutional standing as other fundamental rights, to promote better government oversight, address gaps in existing laws, and secure action when there's an absence of law; the movement has inspired and worked with communities in 14 states and counting, including Pennsylvania, Montana, New York, and various states across the country.
Conservation Florida, FDEP permanently protect significant property along the Rainbow River (Conservation Florida) - Conservation Florida and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection have permanently protected the 135-acre Gissy Rainbow River Ranch in Marion County, Florida, preserving one of the last undeveloped lands along the Rainbow River and creating a critical connection in the Florida Wildlife Corridor; the conservation easement ensures that the property will remain wild and untouched, safeguarding water quality, wildlife, and scenic views along the river, and enhancing natural resource-based recreation opportunities.