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Stay informed, Wetland Permitting Update, and more!

April 20, 2024 Weekly Newsletter

Snowbirds: Don't Miss a Beat in Indian River County


It's that time of year again! As the warmth of spring gives way to the Florida summer, our beloved snowbirds prepare to return to their northern homes. We'll miss your enthusiasm and the vibrant energy you bring to Indian River County – but we understand it's time for a change of scenery.


While you're away, we want to make sure you stay connected with all the happenings back here in your sunny winter paradise. Luckily, it's easier than ever to keep up, especially if you subscribe to our newsletter! You'll get updates on exciting summer events, important news, and who knows – you might even discover some hidden gems you missed during the busy season.


For our dedicated residents staying put through the summer, we need your help! Keep sharing the newsletters and updates you receive, and remain active in the community. Things tend to quiet down a bit with fewer snowbirds around, so let's work together to keep the spirit of Indian River County going strong. Your vigilance and involvement help ensure our community stays safe, informed, and as vibrant as ever. After all, it's your home year-round!


 

Wetland Permitting Update


IRNA has been following the issue of Florida's wetlands permitting situation since it first came up. We have discussed it in several previous newsletters. Last week, a U.S. district judge denied Florida's appeal to retain some control over wetlands permitting. This follows a broader ruling that returned this authority to the federal government. This program, which is part of the Clean Water Act (Section 404), manages projects that could impact wetlands and is now once again overseen by the Army Corps of Engineers instead of the state.


The judge's decision underscores concerns that Florida's management of the program did not adequately prioritize the protection of endangered species. This leaves over a thousand permit applications in limbo, affecting projects ranging from housing developments to environmental restoration efforts. It's worth noting that restoration often relies on mitigation banking, which allows developers to compensate for wetland damage by improving other similar habitats. The concept of mitigation banking and its efficacy can be debated.


This ruling emphasizes the ongoing tension between development and environmental protection. It highlights the need for rigorous standards to safeguard Florida's diverse wildlife, which depends heavily on wetland ecosystems. The state may pursue further appeals but, for now, the federal government will reassume permitting responsibility to ensure compliance with environmental regulations.


The State of Florida is expected to appeal this decision. We will continue to follow this court case and hope to continue to bring you good news on this front.


 

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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.



 

Most people are concerned about environmental issues and climate change and want action, but we tend to underestimate how widespread this feeling is. That includes elected officials. This lack of awareness discourages action on a critical issue.


We need to make our voices heard! The Yale Program on Climate Change Communication (YPCCC) findsthat politicians consistently underestimate how much their constituents care about climate issues. Look even to Indian River County, where in 2022 we passed a referendum to borrow $50m for conservation lands with 78.2% of the vote. This disconnect happens because not enough people express their views.


Here's what we can do:


  • Contact your elected officials. Let them know transformative action on the environment has your support. Calls, emails, and letters all make a difference.

  • Spread the word. Encourage friends and family to do the same. Every little bit helps!

  • Join forces! Get involved with a group (like the IRNA) for ongoing support and activities. Many exist on all levels, from national organizations like Citizens' Climate Lobby to local initiatives.


Individual action may feel small, but together, we can make the change we need to combat the practices that are harming our environment.


 

Successful gardening in Florida’s heat (IFAS) - Florida's unique climate requires careful planning for successful summer gardening, including choosing heat-tolerant plants, understanding watering needs, adjusting soil, and utilizing resources like the Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Guide.


Social media teems with Three Corners nonsense (Vero News) - Misinformation and unfounded negativity about the Three Corners development project are flooding social media despite the project's strong community support and clear guidelines.


Thousands of horseshoe crabs spawn on Titusville beach (TCPalm) - Here's a video of a major horseshoe crab spawning event on Titusville's Gator Creek Road Beach, an important Florida site – it's the first time this has happened in two years!


The bloody turtle video that sparked a plastic straw revolution (BBC) - A video showing the painful removal of a plastic straw from a turtle's nostril sparked a global movement to reduce plastic straw use and address the broader plastic pollution crisis.


Water costs may go up in Broward to comply with new rules (Sun Sentinel) - Broward County residents may face significantly higher water bills due to new federal regulations requiring the removal of toxic "forever chemicals" from drinking water.


Golf carts can now putter around more Vero streets (Vero News) - Vero Beach has expanded the areas where golf carts are allowed to operate, now including the Vero Beach Country Club neighborhood, and also permits low-speed vehicles (LSVs) on a designated sidewalk section along State Road A1A.


Another prime buy rewards Land Trust’s patience (Vero News) - After a 15-year effort, the Indian River Land Trust successfully acquired a prime 48-acre lagoon-front parcel near the Toni Robinson Waterfront Trail in Wabasso, significantly expanding their conservation area along the Lagoon.


 

Florida's Turnpike upgrades


The Florida Turnpike Enterprise is widening a big stretch of the Turnpike (SR 91) from SR 70 to SR 60. This project will make a huge difference for drivers in St. Lucie, Indian River, Okeechobee, and Osceola counties.


Why the expansion? To keep traffic flowing smoothly as our region keeps growing. The project will add new toll lanes, revamp the SR 60 interchange, and potentially even add more interchanges along the way. It's all about making sure the Turnpike can handle the traffic of tomorrow.


The Turnpike Enterprise isn't just focused on bigger roads – they're also carefully considering the environment. They're doing a thorough study to figure out the best ways to protect wetlands, wildlife, and historical spots. Plus, they're looking at new transportation technologies to make the Turnpike even safer and more efficient in the future.


Stay tuned for more updates on this project!


 

Discharges to the Caloosahatchee - good or bad? (VoteWater.org) - Discharges from Lake Okeechobee to the Caloosahatchee River present a complex situation, with the Army Corps of Engineers attempting to balance the need for salinity control against the risk of nutrient-fueled algae blooms.


Struggling Manatee Was Close to Dying but Florida Deputy Held it Afloat for 2 Hours (Good News Network) - A Florida deputy saved a manatee struggling to breathe due to red tide exposure by holding it afloat for two hours until it regained its strength.


'It’s disgusting:' Pahokee visitors react to algae bloom in marina (WPTV) - Tourists visiting the Pahokee Marina were disgusted to find a toxic algae bloom, prompting concerns about the potential for a widespread and environmentally harmful algae season.


Bob Graham: Former Florida governor and U.S. Senator dies (Tallahassee.com) - Bob Graham, the former two-term governor of Florida and three-term U.S. senator, passed away at age 87; he was noted for his approachable style of governance and his unique practice of working different ordinary jobs monthly to better connect with constituents--not to mention his committment to conservation. He will be missed.


After 13 Years, No End in Sight for Caribbean Sargassum Invasion (Inside Climate News) - A massive influx of sargassum seaweed is causing severe health, economic, and environmental problems for Caribbean nations, with inadequate resources and a lack of coordinated response exacerbating the crisis.


Florida Wildlife Corridor eases worst impacts of climate change (ScienceDaily) - The Florida Wildlife Corridor provides a critical buffer against the negative impacts of climate change and development, protecting biodiversity, providing essential ecosystem services, and supporting economic resilience for the state.


Switch to Green Wastewater Infrastructure Could Reduce Emissions, Provide Huge Savings (Environmental News Network) - Switching to green wastewater infrastructure in the US could significantly reduce carbon emissions and save billions of dollars over time, offering a win for both the environment and the economy.


 

Indian River County's Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan Set for Significant Updates


Indian River County's Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) is working to update its Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan, which was last revised in 2015. The goal is to improve safety and accessibility for all residents, with a specific focus on vulnerable roadway users like cyclists and pedestrians. After gathering public input through workshops last fall, a consultant team has developed draft networks for new and improved bicycle and pedestrian facilities. These drafts are now open for further public comment to help shape the plan's final policy goals.


Later this spring, specific projects will be identified, and plans will be made to prioritize their implementation. A complete draft report is expected by summer. Several key projects are already being considered, including multimodal enhancements along the 26th Street/Aviation Boulevard corridor, shared-use paths near canals, and new bike lanes and sidewalks in South County. Additionally, projects like the Trans-Florida Railroad Trail extension, a Wabasso Causeway shared-use path, US 1 enhancements, and various improvements in Sebastian and Fellsmere are also on the table.


The MPO encourages continued public involvement throughout this process. Community feedback is essential to ensure the updated Master Plan effectively addresses the needs of everyone in Indian River County. To share your thoughts or learn more, visit the Indian River County MPO website.


 

OUC to drill deeper into aquifer to meet growing demand for water (ClickOrlando) - The Orlando Utilities Commission is investing $155 million in a new water treatment plant to access a deeper, untapped source of water in the Lower Floridan Aquifer, ensuring a clean water supply to meet the region's growing demand through 2045.


Retention Ponds Can Deliver a Substantial Reduction in Tire Particle Pollution (Environmental News Network) - Wetlands and retention ponds constructed along major roads can significantly decrease the amount of harmful tire particles entering waterways, reducing environmental pollution.


Tropical Forests Can’t Recover Naturally Without Fruit Eating Birds (Environmental News Network) - Natural forest regeneration in tropical areas depends heavily on fruit-eating birds for seed dispersal, and their presence can significantly increase carbon storage potential in these recovering forests.


How Do Neighbors of Solar Farms Really Feel? A New Survey Has Answers (Inside Climate News) - A new national survey reveals that while overall sentiment towards solar farms is positive, attitudes towards larger projects (100 megawatts or more) are largely negative, suggesting a preference for smaller solar developments.


Microplastics make their way from the gut to other organs (ScienceDaily) - Research shows that ingested microplastics can migrate from the gut into other organs like the liver, kidney, and brain, altering metabolic pathways and potentially exacerbating underlying health conditions.


Why is Florida beach water so warm? (Travel FAQ) - The warm water temperatures in Florida beaches are primarily due to the state's subtropical location, receiving ample sunshine, and the influence of the warm Gulf Stream current.


 

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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