By Don Walker, Brevard County Government // April 20, 2016
BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – The Brevard County Commission approved an agreement with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) on Tuesday for an additional $800,000 in funding for a project to reduce pollution, identify sources of muck, and reduce muck inputs to the Indian River Lagoon.
This latest appropriation builds on the previous $20 million awarded in the past two years for the Brevard County Muck Dredging Project, making a total investment of $20.8 million to date.
The recent algal bloom (brown tide event) in the northern Indian River Lagoon and Banana River reinforces the importance of continued focus on restoration work to improve water quality in the lagoon.
This recently-awarded grant will benefit ongoing efforts to reduce nitrogen and phosphorous levels, which can decrease the intensity and duration of algal bloom events.
“Brevard County appreciates state assistance with projects to restore health to the Indian River Lagoon – a local, state and national treasure. Inadequate protections in the past have led to harmful muck accumulation,” said Brevard County Natural Resources Management Director Virginia Barker.
“We are proud to be a partner in this important project.”
This newest Brevard County project will reduce sediment loading to the most muck-laden segments of the lagoon as well as map and prioritize legacy loads of muck already accumulated in critical areas of the lagoon.
“Eliminating current sources of muck and removing muck deposits are both crucial steps towards improving water quality and the overall health of the lagoon, including protecting fish and wildlife that call the Indian River Lagoon home,” said DEP Deputy Secretary for Ecosystem Restoration Drew Bartlett.
“Brevard County continues to demonstrate its commitment to protect and restore the Indian River Lagoon and we look forward to continued collaboration to protect this important resource.”
Muck build-up is a result of nutrient pollution, sediment, grass clippings, leaves and other organic matter entering the Indian River Lagoon over time and accumulating at the bottom. As muck decomposes, it consumes oxygen needed by fish and it releases nutrients that feed algae blooms.
The department continues to work aggressively to improve water quality in the lagoon, including identifying additional wastewater and stormwater projects to reduce the amount of nutrients going into the lagoon, and dredge projects to remove muck that exists in the bottom of the lagoon, which also feeds algae blooms.
For the upcoming fiscal year, nearly $26 million from the Florida First budget will be invested in 10 water-quality improvement projects.
This includes $21.5 million for the continuation of the Brevard County Muck Dredging Project – a key component of long-term lagoon restoration.