May 18, 2023 Contact: Fred Mays
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 972-838-5163
Hits And Misses For The Lagoon In The Florida Legislature in 2023
by Craig Wallace, President, Brevard Indian River Lagoon Coalition
The Brevard Indian River Lagoon Coalition would like to show our appreciation to our local legislative delegation led by Senators Debbie Mayfield and Tom Wright who supported and helped push through some very significant legislation for Brevard County. Bills specifically targeting sources of lagoon pollution and protection of Land from over development.
Senator Tom Wright’s bill, H1686 passed, creating the “Brevard Barrier Island Area Protection Act”. It designates the South Melbourne Barrier Island as an area of critical state concern, providing strict rules and review of any new development within the area. This will preserve the lagoon and beaches in a more natural state preventing new multi-unit buildings typical in other areas of the Barrier Islands.
HB 1739 Environmental Protection- implements many of the elements of what Senator Mayfield has been working on for years and is now supported by Governor DeSantis’ Indian River Lagoon Protection Program which includes:
- Prioritizing projects necessary to achieve water quality standards by establishing a comprehensive Water Quality Monitoring Network, funding research pertaining to water quality, ecosystem restoration, and seagrass impacts and restoration.
- Prohibiting the installation of new onsite septic systems within the IRL watershed unless they achieve at least 65% nitrogen reduction.
- By July 1, 2030 existing septic systems in the IRL watershed must connect to central sewer, if available, or upgrade to an enhanced treatment system that achieves at least 65 percent nitrogen reduction.
Equally important is that the Legislature appropriated funding to support these programs. Watch for information on how you, as a property owner can get assistance in upgrading your onsite septic systems to advanced treatment systems. There was also funding for upgrading some substandard public sewage treatment plants, as well as matching funds for muck removal projects around the county.
It is very important to note that we received these matching state funds because in 2016 we voted to tax ourselves to fund the Save Our Indian River Lagoon restoration project to the tune of over $500M over 10 years. So, we can thank ourselves as well as the legislature for the $100+ million per year, over the next 4 years in state matching funds. This is a big step in helping to heal our lagoon, but don’t be fooled into thinking that’s all it will take to cure half a century of neglect and man-made pollution built up in the lagoon. We must keep pushing for more action and accountability.
Some legislation that passed was not good for the Lagoon. For example, there was a last-minute attachment to the appropriations bill that would allow the state to override local fertilizer bans. Visit our website www.helpthelagoon.org, to see how to ask the Governor to veto that.
There were a number of items that did not make the cut that we need to keep pushing for in Tallahassee:
- Rules limiting the spreading of sewage sludge on agricultural fields.
- Requirement for Septic system Inspections to identify failing systems polluting our ground waters and the lagoon.
- Stormwater rules updates that sets the procedures and standards for stormwater pollution.
- Implementation of the Blue Green Algae Task Force recommendations, one of the Governors election priorities, still hasn’t been incorporated into regulatory law.
It is critical that we all monitor the actions of our state and local governments on these and other actions. Visit our website, www.helpthelagoon.org, and sign up and become a Lagoon Voice to keep informed about necessary actions to heal our National treasure, The Indian River Lagoon.