FWC Update on The Indian River Lagoon

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 29, 2016

CONTACT: FWC Community Relations Office, 850.488.4676, FWCNews@MyFWC.com

FWC’S DAILY UPDATE ON THE INDIAN RIVER LAGOON

In an effort to keep Floridians informed of the state’s efforts to conserve fish and wildlife resources and protect the environment and economies of the communities on and around the Indian River Lagoon, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) will being issuing an Indian River Lagoon status update each weekday. These updates will help residents stay informed of the conditions in the lagoon, as well as the latest actions by the State of Florida.

  • This morning, agency leadership from FWC, Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD) and Department of Health (DOH) toured the Banana River near Cocoa Beach down to Patrick Air Force Base. They were joined by Speaker Steve Crisafulli and Senator Thad Altman. In addition, they met with Brigadier General Wayne R. Monteith and other partners at the base.
  • They observed the brown tide event and discussed current status with experts and health officials as well as witnessed local, county, FWC and DEP crews assisting with cleanup led by Brevard County related to fish mortality.   
  • Aerial view of fish mortality appears to be on the decline with no additional mortality at this time.

Northern Indian River Lagoon Brown Tide Event

  • As water from Lake Okeechobee does not reach Brevard County through the Indian River Lagoon, there is no evidence as of now that the brown tide event is related to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ freshwater discharges from Lake Okeechobee. 
  • FWC continues to work closely with the DEP, SJRWMD, DOH and other state, regional and local agencies to assess and respond to the large brown algal bloom in the Indian River and Banana River lagoons, including monitoring and analyzing impacts to wildlife and water quality and addressing short and longer-term solutions.
    • While brown algae is typically non-toxic to humans, it can reduce the amount of dissolved oxygen in the water, impacting fish and other wildlife.
  • Response efforts include:
    • FWC continues to take and analyze fish and water samples to document and determine the cause of fish and wildlife mortality events.
    • DEP and SJRWMD have deployed staff and boats to assist Brevard County with their local recovery and clean-up efforts.
    • Local Department of Health offices continue to monitor for human health impacts and encourage public safety. 
    • SJRWMD continues to regularly collect water quality monitoring samples to track movement and trends in the bloom activity and to monitor for changes in the algal species type.
    • In addition to on-the-ground response and monitoring efforts, state and local agencies also continue to focus on longer-term water quality restoration efforts for Indian River Lagoon.
  • Governor Rick Scott’s office distributed a press release on Friday, March 25 applauding the state, regional and local agencies assessing and responding to the algal bloom.

 

FWC Response

  • FWC is taking weekly water samples from 8-10 sites in the Indian River Lagoon.
  • Since March 18 FWC has received at least 18 water samples from the impacted area.
  • Samples have been provided by FWC’s Fisheries Independent Monitoring staff and volunteers.
  • The FWC has received nearly 400 calls and online reports allowing them to document the size and duration of this extensive event, coordinate a response and disseminate information about the cause of the fish kill.
  • Report a fish kill, diseased fish or fish with other abnormalities to 1-800-636-0511
  • Report sick, and or injured wildlife at 888-404-3922 or Tip@MyFWC.com

 

Other response efforts include

  • The SJRWMD continues to collect water quality monitoring samples and track movement and trends in the bloom activity.
  • The water management district routinely monitors water quality in the Indian River Lagoon and its tributaries, collecting and managing data from 58 sites monthly to provide reliable data about current water quality conditions.
  • To monitor specifically for algae species, the SJRWMD partners with FWC and the University of Florida to sample and analyze five sites monthly and provides additional event-driven support when algal blooms are reported.
  • In addition, the district maintains five stations that provide continuous water quality monitoring, sending the information electronically to the agency’s headquarters.
  • In addition to on-the-ground response and monitoring efforts, state and local agencies are also focusing on longer-term water quality restoration efforts for the Indian River Lagoon. These restoration projects and management strategies are essential to reducing nitrogen and phosphorous levels, which will help to decrease the intensity and duration of algal bloom events.
  • To address elevated levels of nutrients in the lagoon, in 2013, DEP adopted three basin management action plans (BMAPs) to implement the projects and activities necessary to bring the lagoon back to health.
    • In addition, DEP has adopted the St. Lucie BMAP, which will also help the Southern Indian River Lagoon.
    • To date, the stakeholders have achieved all obligations outlined in the BMAPs.  

 

Restoration Funding

  • Including the recently signed Florida First budget, the state will have invested nearly $80 million dollars in projects in Brevard County to restore the lagoon during the past, current and upcoming fiscal years.
    • 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 in a muck dredging project – a key component of long-term lagoon restoration.
    • This includes funding in three key areas to lagoon restoration:
      • Wastewater: $2,872,500
      • Dredging: $61,500,000
      • Load Reduction (storm water): $14,221,788

 

  • Additional projects may be funded through DEP’s and SJRWMD’s budgets; for example, both DEP and SJRWMD are contributing partners to the Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program.
    • In addition, DEP encourages local governments and communities to reach out to their Division of Water Restoration Assistance, which provides grants and loans for water quality and quantity projects.
    • Additional cost-share funding and other restoration projects are also funded by the SJRWMD.

 

  • Local communities are also encouraged to engage with the Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program (NEP), a unique local, state and regional partnership to protect the lagoon.