Posted on May 8, 2023
Florida lawmakers this week put the Indian River Lagoon in line for $100 million in cleanups, marking what some are calling an historic year for funding to clean up the waterway.
“It was a good year for Brevard,” Rep. Thad Altman, R-Indian Harbour Beach, said.
On Monday, Florida legislative leaders tentatively agreed to a $116 billion budget that includes the $100 million in lagoon funding. The funding hinges on a final legislative vote and and Governor approval.
The lagoon funding will bring deeper, cleaner canals and lagoon tributaries; hundreds more homes converted from septic tanks to sewer systems; and hopefully more seagrass, fish and other wildlife to the ailing estuary.
Here’s a breakdown of how the lagoon fared and what happens next.
What are some of the bigger-ticket lagoon items in the budget?
Among the biggest ticket items in Brevard: Another $9 million for more dredging of the Grand Canal, south of Pineda Causeway. The ongoing $26.4 million project is creating deeper, cleaner canals, by dredging out decades-worth of organic muck from entrance and finger canals. Muck is formed from rotted algae, grass clippings, and silt from stormwater runoff.
Another big-ticket item is the $5 million Eau Gallie NE Construction Environmental Dredging project.
According to state legislative documents, that project will remove built-up organic muck from 73 acres of the lagoon in an area northeast of the Eau Gallie Causeway. The project location has about 376,600 cubic yards of decaying muck.
You can larn more about Eau Gallie River dredging history here.
Will any project prevent future sewage spills in heavy storms?
Yes. The budget includes $2 million for a deep-injection well in the South Beaches. County officials have said that project could help to prevent large wastewater discharges such as the 7.2 million gallons of treated sewage piped to the Indian River Lagoon during hurricane Ian in late September by Brevard County’s South Beaches plant.
The well will increase how much volume of semi-treated wastewater the plant can store during heavy rains.
What happens next?
The funding is including within the General Appropriations Act (GAA). The GAA is still in a “cooling off” period that will end Friday morning. Then the GAA will need to be voted on by the Florida Legislature and then signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis before July 1. He has veto power authority over any of the included projects.
Will the lagoon funding will survive DeSantis’ veto pen?
Altman said he’s confident DeSantis would spare lagoon funding from vetoes, given the Governor’s stance in recent history.
“He’s been very supportive of the lagoon,” Altman said.
In September 2021, DeSantis turned up at Sebastian Inlet to announce more than $53 million in new Indian River Lagoon funding, with promises that state lawmakers would allocate a similar amount annually to clean up the ailing estuary.