A plan to improve the water quality of the Indian River Lagoon through the creation of a COVB Stormwater Utility, strongly supported by the Indian River Neighborhood Association and other environmental organizations, has been delayed because of financial difficulties facing our City from the coronavirus. The State Department of Environmental Protection has tasked the City to reduce the amount of nitrogen and phosphorous draining into the Indian River Lagoon. To date, the City has achieved only 11% of targeted nitrogen and 8% of phosphorous reduction. To reach the desired goals in the next 5 years, the City will have to initiate expensive water quality improvement projects. The current City budget doesn’t include funds for such projects. In fact, it shows over $1,200,000 in unfunded stormwater projects through the year 2024.
The Stormwater Utility would raise separate funds to pay for needed capital improvements to reduce pollutants from our roads, driveways and yards that enter ditches, drains and canals and ultimately end up in the IRL. This dedicated source of funds would make the City eligible for 50% Federal and State matching grants for water quality improvements, thereby doubling the amount of monies available.
We sympathize with the families and business owners that now face tough financial decisions and hope relief will soon be theirs. We all look forward to returning to normal. Unfortunately, stormwater pollution is not going away anytime soon. The City Council should join our neighboring communities that already have stormwater utilities and establish the framework of Vero’s Stormwater Utility, including the ordinance and fee structure. All City property owners would pay into the fund according to the amount of impervious surfaces on their property.
Implementation of the utility can be set at a future date to allow for financial recovery. In the meantime, summer rains loom on the horizon and our portion of the lagoon continues to be an impaired water body.