Editor’s note: Richard Winger is a member of the Vero Beach City Council.
The next City Council meeting is Tuesday May 2nd at 9:30am. Between now and then, I need your help to rally support for the Indian River Lagoon. The City of Vero Beach must participate in the holistic approach to the Lagoon.
A formal call from me for consideration at the next City Council will be forthcoming for all City of Vero Beach Indian River Lagoon projects to be submitted to One Lagoon.
As I said at City Council April 18th, our City and our County need be whole-hearted participants in One Lagoon (formerly named the 5 county Indian River Lagoon Council). We must realize, as Senator Nelson has said, it takes each and every local government along the Lagoon, working together with state and Federal agencies, to do its part to save the Lagoon.
The small projects envisioned in “The Legacy” project, are something I support, but apart from a coordinated regional effort they will make minimal improvement. These small Legacy projects won’t help even a fraction as much as fixing the major problem of storm water runoff in the City. However, all effort helps, and will benefit the Lagoon much more if they are a part of the holistic One Lagoon effort. I am requesting at the next Council meeting that the Legacy projects be submitted to One Lagoon, and I am suggesting they be brought to One Lagoon’s STEM and Management meetings. We went over that procedure for this at the April 18th City Council.
Please share this information with your friends and everyone you know who will support the holistic approach. Small fragmented efforts are not the correct path. A united effort means the Indian River Lagoon can and will recover. One Lagoon is the only path for saving this unique environmental treasure and the City of Vero Beach needs to be a part of the total solution.
In a guest column published in the Press Journal, Vero Beach City Councilman Richard Winger urged city residents to attend the 9:30 a.m., Feb. 7 meeting of the City Council to support an effort he is backing to help address the Lagoon crisis.
The proposal to raise an average of $5 per month from each of the City’s property owners to pay for better filtration of stormwater runoff was approved by 11 of 12 members of the Finance and Utilities Commissions. Yet, Winger expressed concern that several Council members may attempt to stall or kill the plan. “The City Council has members who campaigned one way and perhaps will vote another,” Winger wrote.
As Winger explained, within the five counties through which the Indian River Lagoon flows, Vero Beach is only one of two municipalities not adequately funding filtration of stormwater runoff with a dedicated, secure source of revenue. Winger reiterated the message he is receiving from fellow members of the Indian River Lagoon Coalition, which is that the Lagoon can only be saved if each and every county and municipality along the estuary does its part.
According to Winger, two-thirds of Vero Beach surface water currently flows into the Lagoon unfiltered, “carrying whatever is on our lawns and paved surfaces to contaminate the Lagoon.”
The average monthly fee of $5 to be paid by local property owners would not be used for salaries, operating expenses or equipment, but would instead pay for piping, pumps and filtration system to better clean surface water runoff before it reaches the Lagoon. The money could also be used for muck removal and aeration projects to clean the bottom of the Lagoon near outfall areas.
Opponents of the proposal, Councilman Harry Howle chief among them, argue the Lagoon Enterprise Fund will lead to more bureaucracy. Winger and other proponents of the plan stress that none of the money raised will in any way increase the City’s payroll or to buy equipment. Use of the funds will be restricted specific projects. If the City is going to do its part to help save the Lagoon, the only other alternative, they say, will be to raise property taxes.
Editor’s note: Randy Old is a former member of the Vero Beach City Council. He currently serves on the City’s Finance Commission.
On Tuesday, at 9:30 am, February 7, the Vero Beach City Council will consider establishing a stormwater utility system dedicated to funding the infrastructure required to keep stormwater runoff from polluting the lagoon. Studies have shown this to be a serious problem, but one that has been ignored for years by the city because of lack of funds.
The purpose of the Stormwater Utility is to protect and improve the health of the lagoon, by providing a dedicated funding source to control and clean stormwater before it gets to the lagoon. The Utility is funded by all those who own impervious property, be they individuals, schools, the City, churches, or commercial enterprises. The average bill would be $5.00 per month, or $60.00 per year, and would generate a total of just under $950,000. Those wishing to reduce their bill could change the impervious qualities of their property.
The Finance and Utility Commissions each recommended to the City Council that the City finalize the consultants’ study, and that billing each property owner be done through the existing utility billing system.
There are about 166 Stormwater Utilities in Florida that have been created by municipalities. The main advantage of this project is that this funding allows the city to plan a multiyear program, to make use of matching grant programs, and to ensure that the lagoon funding doesn’t compete during the budget process with roads, staffing, and safety. Most importantly, while the effort to protect and improve the lagoon is now voluntary, it will soon become mandatory as state and federal guidelines become law. This project establishes a method for Vero to comply with the future.
The Ocean Research & Conservation Association (ORCA) will present The Report on the Indian River Lagoon, highlighting the organization’s most significant research findings over the past two years. The event will be held on Wednesday, January 25, 2017 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Pelican Yacht Club, located at 1120 Seaway Dr. in Fort Pierce. Reservations must be made in advance as seating is limited. Cost is $35 per person and includes the presentation, along with a cocktail reception, plus hors d’oeuvres and a cash bar. Individuals wanting to make a reservation can call ORCA at 772-467-1600 or visit teamORCA.org and click on the tab “ORCA Store”.
With the decline of the Indian River Lagoon, ORCA’s efforts in the Indian River Lagoon have been front and center in the newspapers.. Thanks to ORCA’s research programs, in conjunction with ORCA’s Kilroy water monitoring systems, we have been able to gather information about the sources of pollution causing the degradation of our once healthy, one of a kind ecosystem and are optimistic for the future of the lagoon.
There will be a question and answer session after the formal presentation and attendees will have an opportunity to look over ORCA’s educational displays before and after the presentation.
This event is sponsored by Treasure Coast Newspapers/TCPalm, Sunrise Ford, DiBartolomeo, McBee, Hartley & Barnes, CPAs and Central Window of Vero
Signaling a possible improvement in intergovernmental relations, the Indian River County Commission yesterday voted to seek admission in the Indian River Lagoon Council.
Newly elected Commissioner, Susan Adams, was joined by Lagoon advocate, Tim Zorc, and Peter O’Bryan in reversing the Commission’s staunch resistance to participating with Brevard, Saint Lucie, Martin, and Palm Beach Counties, along with the St. John’s Water Management District, the South Florida Water Management District, and the Florida Department of Environmental Protect in a multi-county, intergovernmental effort to address the Indian River Lagoon crisis. More…
In order to flush out nitrogen and phosphorus loading in Destin Harbor the city built a pumping station connecting the harbor to the Gulf of Mexico.
Editor’s note: The article below by Nick Thomas describes an option for flushing the Bethel Creek area of Indian River Lagoon by installing underground pipes between the Atlantic Ocean and the Lagoon at Bethel Creek. It was first published May 1, 2013. A week ahead of the recent Aug. 30 primary election, County Commissioner Tim Zorc proposed a pilot project to test the concept.
Thirty years ago, the City of Destin in Northwest Florida was incorporated from Okaloosa County. The first order of business for the new City was to identify its strengths and move to protect them. For Destin, a town built on tourism, and the self-proclaimed home of Florida’s largest fishing fleet, the clear answer was to protect their famous sugar-sand beaches and the blue-green Harbor that served as both the economic and social hub of the City. More…
County Commissioner Bob Solari, who is running for re-election, has made the effectiveness of Spoonbill Marsh an issue in his campaign, bragging in campaign mailers to be the driving force behind the facility, which filters brine water.
Earlier this week, Inside Vero submitted a public records request to the County Attorney’s Office seeking copies of written correspondence and calendar evidence of meetings between County Commissioners and County Staff and representatives of the Indian River Land Trust regarding the possible flow of brine-contaminated water from the County’s Spoonbill Marsh brine water filtration project onto adjacent Land Trust property. No one at the County Attorney’s office is available to address our public records request until after Aug. 24.
Land Trust Executive Director Ken Gruden did not return our call, and no one at the Land Trust appears willing at this point to speak on the record. One Land Trust staff member did ask us to “please” follow up with him after receiving the County’s response to our public records request.
Yesterday, Barry Shapiro, a concerned citizen, distributed the following email raising his concerns about a possible cover up of issues at Spoonbill Marsh.
From: Barry Shapiro
Date: Thu, Aug 18, 2016 at 10:14 AM
Subject: Important information for anyone who cares about our environment.More…
The Contact 5 Investigators examined a multi-million dollar project that Florida Power & Light says will “enhance electric service to our customers.”
However, some claim part of the project on the Indian River Lagoon is dangerous and illegal.
FPL is building a new transmission line that will run from the St. Lucie Nuclear Plant, under the Indian River Lagoon, to the company’s Turnpike substation.
When Contact 5 started looking into complaints about the project from people who live on the Indian River Lagoon, we found violations that Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection either missed or ignored. Continue reading...
The Indian River Lagoon (IRL) spans 40 percent of Florida’s east coast and has an annual economic impact of $3.7 billion, supporting an estimated 15,000 full- and part-time jobs while providing recreational opportunities for more than 11 million people per year. Next week, FAU’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute (HBOI) will bring this estuary of national significance to the forefront of local conversation by hosting a public forum on lagoon health.
The public is invited to attend this public outreach day of the 2016 Indian River Lagoon Symposium on Friday, Feb. 12 from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at HBOI’s Johnson Education Center Auditorium, 5600 U.S. 1 North, Fort Pierce.
The forum, “Engaging the Public: It’s Our Lagoon!,” is centered on the Indian River Lagoon Council Meeting, which also will take place that day at 9:30 a.m. The event is designed to provide interested individuals with an opportunity to learn more about the plans of the IRL National Estuary Program, and how to become more involved in the various efforts of organizations along the lagoon.
The forum is free and open to the public. Registration is required and closes Wednesday, Feb. 10. To register, visit https://fauf.fau.edu/irls2016.
Monday, Jan 18th, 7:30pm Vero Beach Community Center: Pelican Island Audubon Meeting with speaker, Dr. Andrew Furman – “Bitten: My Unexpected Love Affair with Florida” http://www.pelicanislandaudubon.org
Wednesday, Jan 20th, 9am, Indian River Land Trust Tour of Bee Gum Point
Wednesday, Jan 20th, 3pm at the Emerson Center – Begins a weekly, 9 part Climate Change film series – “Years of Living Dangerously”
These documentaries give us perspectives from many different points of view including that of Christian Scientist Dr. Katherine Hayhoe, who believes science and faith do not have to be at odds. It demonstrates how human industrial practices may be contributing to the increasing prevalence of catastrophic weather events. It shows us what parts of the world are running out of water to drink and which countries are at most risk for catastrophic flooding.More…
Lately there have been several press articles regarding the County’s lack of inclusion in the Indian River Lagoon Council (IRLC) and how this somehow implies that the County is not taking action to improve the Lagoon or that the County’s efforts are ineffective. Unfortunately these articles neglect to inform the readers about the nutrient removal projects the County has already built and that have been actively removing nutrients and debris from canal water prior to reaching the Lagoon. Indian River County began designing the first of these projects back in 2005, making the County a leader in taking concrete steps to reduce nutrients heading into the Lagoon with documented results.
Since 2005, the County has spent over $29 million on four major, state-of-the-art regional projects to help the Lagoon, using a mixture of Optional Sales Tax, Utilities funds, and grant funding. These four projects: Spoonbill Marsh, Egret Marsh, PC Main Skimmer and Osprey Marsh have collectively removed over 128,000 pounds of Total Nitrogen and over 29,000 pounds of Total Phosphorous, preventing these damaging excess nutrients from reaching the Lagoon. These numbers could hardly be called ineffective. County staff has received several awards from the Pelican Island Audubon Society as results of our efforts to reduce pollution to the Lagoon. Included are two Maggie Bowman Conservationist of the Year Awards and a Special Recognition Award. More…
“What the leaders of big companies like Alico and FPL know is that it is easier to own a politician than to be one.”
Sen. Joe Negron
A story published by TCPalm.com today reports on water farming proposals to be considered by state legislators in January. If approved, the projects will lead to a flood of taxpayer money paying to farm water on private lands. In their story, TCPalm.com reporters Tyler Treadway and Hannah Schwab also reveal the troubling connections between generous political contributions and legislative support for the projects.
One company alone, Alico, has since 2013 donated $608,004 to Florida politicians, mostly Republicans. Gov. Rick Scott’s political committee, Let’s Get to Work, received $230,000 from Alico. Incoming Sen. President Joe Negron’s political committee, Treasure Coast Alliance, received $70,000. More…
At the urging of Commissioner Bob Solari, the Indian River County Commission refused to participate in the new five-county Indian River Lagoon Council. The Lagoon Council today agreed to allow leaders from the cities of Fellsmere, Sebastian and Vero Beach to represent the county’s interests in the regional effort to save the Lagoon.
Indian River County Commissioner Bob Solari sees new Lagoon Council as an affront to representative government.
The Indian River Lagoon Council today voted to allow representation for Indian River County through a collaborative effort of the cities of Fellsmere, Sebastian and Vero Beach.
Together, the three cities will contribute $50,000 to the Lagoon Council to help fund the new Indian River National Estuary Program.
In response to the Indian River County Commission’s decision to not participate in the new five-county effort to save the Lagoon, leaders in Vero Beach, Sebastian and Fellsmere agreed to work together to seek representation on the new Lagoon Council.
The Lagoon Council is made of up representatives from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the South Florida and St. John’s Water Management Districts, Volusia, Brevard, St. Lucie and Martin Counties.
Each county commission, with the exception for Indian River, is contributing $50,000 a year. The three state agencies are contribution a total of $750,000, with another $500,000 coming from the Environmental Protection Agency.
The Indian River Shores Town Council recently voted not to participate in the Lagoon Council. The Shores is currently suing Vero Beach over utility issues.
We already know that Turner is in bed with FPL. The most recent indication is her editorial with several false and misleading comments about the FMPA. Then her demanding – literally, demanding! – that fellow council members vote to keep attacking the Florida Municipal Power Agency.
The reason behind the vote was simple: The useless vote would provide Turner and Bob Solari, another of her bunkmates, with ammunition either way. Yes or no, a vote either way is used to bludgeon opponents at election time.
If “yes,” the response will be to question everything the rest of the Council does in the future that they pretend
doesn’t match with the goal of ruining FMPA. If “no,” as was the case, the chorus of condemnation begins immediately that the Council is not trying to out of the FMPA contracts (even though that already has proven impossible). More…
“Solari has fancied himself as the south barrier island’s Moses, leading “his people” from subjection to the promised land of Tea-Party-style limited government as practiced by a county commission increasingly known for its limited ability to work with others.”
What transpired at yesterday’s Vero Beach City Council meeting was largely expected, with one exception – a call for annexation of the south barrier island. More…
In the face of the Indian River County Commission’s refusal to participate in a regional effort to address the Lagoon crisis, four municipalities – Sebastian, Fellsmere, Indian River Shores and Vero Beach – are banded together to seek representation on the new Indian River Lagoon Council. More…
County roadway manager Michael Nixon: “…Indian River County does not plan to withdraw the (Oslo Boat Ramp) project.”
Is the unpopular plan to upgrade this boat ramp still in play?
Even though the County Commission voted to postpone enhancements to the Oslo Road Boat Ramp for three to five years, and the public seemed to support that decision, it appears the county is still pushing to fast-track a key permit from the Army Corps of Engineers needed to proceed.
Currently, Indian River County is unrepresented in a regional effort to address the Lagoon crisis.
The new Indian River Lagoon Council, a regional effort to address the Lagoon crisis, held its first meeting today in Palm Bay. The group includes representatives from the Brevard, Saint Lucie, Martin and Palm Beach County Commissions and from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Saint John’s and South Florida Water Management Districts. The Indian River County Commission chose not to participate in the Lagoon Council, objecting to voting representation for the three state agencies. (See: Regional Lagoon Council proceeds without Indian River County) More…
Together, cites can better represent the county’s interests on regional Lagoon Council
It is becoming increasingly difficult to take seriously the claims of Commissioners Solari and Zorc that they are genuinely concerned about the Lagoon.
“Besides, the County Commission can work through Tim Zorc’s shadow group, the Indian River Lagoon ‘Coalition,’ set up by Zorc, largely to circumvent Florida’s open government laws.”
Word on the street is at least one local Lagoon activist is working with representatives of Fellsmere, Sebastian, Indian River Shores and Vero Beach on a plan that would enable those cities, together, to take the “Republic” of Indian River County’s place on the new Indian River Lagoon Council. The Lagoon Council is a regional effort to address the Lagoon crisis.
Led by Bob Solari, the County Commission last month voted 5-0 not to accept an invitation to join Brevard, St. Lucie, Martin and Palm Beach Counties, along with the Saint John’s and South Florida Water Management Districts and the State Department of Environmental Protection, in a coordinated regional approach to addressing the Lagoon crisis. More…
Teams of local high school students will gather at FAU Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute (HBOI), 5600 U.S. 1 North, in Fort Pierce, on Saturday, February 28 to compete in the Florida Manatee Bowl. The annual regional competition tests teams through quick-answer buzzer questions, and the winners earn a spot in the National Ocean Science Bowl (NOSB.) HBOI has co-hosted the event with the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences for 18 years, with the event location alternating each year between Fort Pierce and Miami. More…
Those who expect local governments to work together must surely be disappointed in the Indian River County Commission.
“If you think the Indian River County Commission should reverse its recent decision not to participate in the Lagoon Council, write or call your county commissioner, or, better yet, attend the March 3, 9 a.m meeting of the Indian River County Commission and let your voice be heard.”
Albert Einstein famously said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” It is likely also true that we will not surmount the challenges facing our communities, if we continue to practice the same divisive politics out of which those problems arose. More…
Citing objections to three state agencies having voting representation on the newly formed Indian River Lagoon Council and calling for a sunset provision, the Indian River County Commission recently voted 5-0 not to participate in the new region effort to address the Lagoon crisis. The Indian River Lagoon Council includes representation from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the Saint John’s and South Florida Water Management Districts and the county commissions of Brevard, St. Lucie, Martine and Palm Beach Counties.
Leaders in the cities of Sebastian, Fellsmere and Vero Beach appear to be considering how to fill the void created when the Indian River County Commission declined to participate in the new Indian River Lagoon Council.
Vero Beach Mayor Richard Wingers said yesterday he has been in conversation with Sebastian Mayor Richard Gillmore. Vero Beach City Manager Jim O’Connor said he has discussed the issue with Fellsmere City Manager Jason Nunemaker. More…
Sebastian City Council will ask for a seat on Lagoon Council
At the urging of Commissioner Bob Solari, the Indian River County Commission is refusing to participate in a regional effort to address the Lagoon crisis. The Sebastian City Council is taking steps to insure local interests will be represented on the newly formed Indian River Lagoon Council.
Solari: Objects to participation by DEP and Water Management District
Agreeing that it is “a travesty” and “unconscionable” for Indian River County to have no voice in how lagoon-designated funding will be used, and on the heels of the county’s official separation from the newly formed Indian River Lagoon Council earlier in the day, the Sebastian City Council on Feb. 11 agreed to seek a seat on the lagoon body – with or without other local municipalities’ participation. Continue reading…
Molly Steinwald, new ELC director. photo by Doug Graybill
After 25 years, the Environmental Learning Center has only its second executive director, Molly Steinwald. She replaces Holly Dill, who has retired after starting the Center from the ground up to where it is today a major attraction to residents and newcomers, young and old.
Steinwald has an outstanding background and a personal mission that is ideally suited for her new position. “My background includes both science and education, but my concern is how the two intersect.”
Her resume reflects that concern. At age 37, she already has a lifetime of experiences to prepare her for this new role. “I remember as a kid watching ants on the sidewalk, looking at patterns and designs in their behavior. I loved the outdoors. I had a camera but couldn’t afford the film, so I bought a Sony digital and published photos online.” More…
Improvements to city’s stormwater system would help address Lagoon crisis
Reducing storm water runoff from draining canals such as the one pictured above, eliminating septic tanks near the Lagoon and canals and restricting fertilizers are, according to experts, the only three viable approaches to reversing the decline of the Lagoon.
When it rains it pours, and when it pours polluted waters drain from yards, parking lots and city streets into the fragile and stressed ecosystem of the Indian River Lagoon. Shockingly, no more than one-third of the storm water runoff within the City of Vero Beach is filtered before reaching the Lagoon.
According to Mayor Richard Winger, the city’s limited stormwater mitigation is “unacceptable.” In a 30-minute presentation given to the City Council on Nov. 18, Winger laid out the reasons he believes it is time for Vero Beach to follow the lead of Sebastian, Fellsmere and more than 100 other Florida cities in forming a storm water utility. More…
Editor’s note: Deborah Ecker is co-chairman of the Indian River Neighborhood Association Water and Lagoon Committee.
In the Vero Isles area alone there are 15 unfiltered storm water outfalls draining into the Lagoon
Considering the divisiveness we are experiencing nationally, the fact that locally we are experiencing unity of opinion, on an important subject, is an achievement deserving recognition. That unity is our consensus that the Lagoon’s water quality is deteriorating. And our cities, along with the County, are reflecting our consensus by taking corrective actions.
The most recent action for controlling the Lagoon’s pollutants was taken by the Vero Beach City Council, two weeks ago. They approved the policy for establishment of stormwater Utility. This is the necessary first step for a dedicated funding source to control surface water runoff from streets, neighborhoods, and developments. Currently these flows are a major source of the pollutants flowing into the Lagoon, damaging water quality. The Utility will pay for filtering devices to be installed, and maintained, on the pipes that drain the runoff. Without this source no funds are available to maintain and improve the city’s storm water controls. More…