Posted on March 21, 2017
By Jim Waymer, florida today
Another $21.5 million in state money will flow the Space Coast’s way to dredge out the bottom muck and remove key sources of muck from the Indian River Lagoon.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection announced the funding to Brevard County Wednesday, bringing to $41.5 million the amount the Legislature has allocated to the county in the past two years for dredging-related cleanups.
This newest phase of dredging will remove another 400,000 cubic yards of muck from south Sykes Creek in Merritt Island and Grand Canal in Satellite Beach. Each project will cost about $30 million and each will remove about 600,000 cubic yards of muck from the lagoon, county officials said.
For the remaining funding, Brevard is asking the Legislature for more than $30 million this year toward dredging projects and also can tap revenue from the half-percent sales tax approved by county voters in November.
Together, both phases of the county’s muck dredging project are estimated to remove 1,400 tons of nitrogen and 300 tons of phosphorous contained within the lagoon muck sediments.
Biologists say excess levels of those two nutrients fueled the past six years of several fish-killing algae blooms in the lagoon.
Muck comes from excess nitrogen and phosphorus from fertilizers, septic tanks, from soils, grass clippings, leaves and other organic matter entering the lagoon.
This latest funding builds on the previous $20 million in state money awarded in the past two years to Brevard for muck removal in the lagoon. That money is being used for dredging out about 350,000 cubic yards of muck from north Cocoa Beach, Mims boat ramp and Turkey Creek sites within the lagoon, the Banana River Lagoon and associated tributaries.
Brevard hopes to have Sykes Creek dredging underway in the fall, said Matt Culver, who oversees muck dredging projects for the county. But complications regarding where to put the muck could drag the dredging out for several years, he said.
The dredging schedule for Grand Canal remains uncertain because the project awaits a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which awaits consultation from federal fisheries biologists regarding the potential impacts on marine life.
The county hopes to start dredging the Mims boat ramp in May but still needs to build a spoil site for the muck in a nearby undeveloped field. The project is expected to be under $3 million, Culver said.
Culver said before being deposited, the muck is tested to ensure safe levels of hydrocarbons, heavy metals and other contaminants of concern.
“Nothing has been above the state standards,” he said of the recent muck dredging projects in the lagoon.
On Wednesday, DEP also announced $800,000 to the county to identify sources of lagoon muck and remove aquatic plants from the watershed that wind up as muck when they rot. The agency also announced $1.5 million in state money to Florida Institute of Technology’s Indian River Lagoon Research Institute, to help monitor how effective the muck dredging is in restoring a healthy ecology.
A $24 million dredging project in the Eau Gallie River is expected to resume in May. Under permitting rules, workers had to stop dredging during March and April, when more manatees and their calves frequent the river, which flows to the Indian River Lagoon.
Over five decades, an estimated 5 million to 7 million cubic yards of muck have built up in the Brevard County and Indian River County portion of the lagoon. That’s enough to cover a football field 1,000 yards high, according to scientists at Florida Institute of Technology.