Shocking images of Florida’s Indian River Lagoon show hundreds of thousands of dead, rotting fish floating in polluted water as far as the eye can see.
The lagoon system includes the Indian River, Mosquito and Banana river lagoons that make up the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway along eastern Florida. It’s home to more than 3,000 species of plants and animals, and is the most biodiverse lagoon ecosystem in the Northern Hemisphere, according to International Business Times.
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 7, 2016
CONTACT: FWC Community Relations Office, 850-488-4676, FWCNews@MyFWC.com
DAILY UPDATE ON THE NORTHERN INDIAN RIVER LAGOON
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is providing status updates each weekday to keep people informed on the state’s cooperative efforts in response to a brown tide event in the northern Indian River Lagoon/Banana River. These updates will help residents stay informed of the conditions in the lagoon, as well as the latest actions by the State of Florida.
Last week, agency leadership from FWC, Department of Environmental Protection, St. Johns River Water Management District and Department of Health 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, SJRWMD, FWC and DEP crews assisting with cleanup led by Brevard County related to fish mortality.
Photos of the tour are available here: https://flic.kr/s/aHsku4iYee
Current Status and Most Recent Information
- There are no new reports of fish mortality via the fish kill hotline (1-800-636-0511) as of April 5.
- Fourteen water samples were collected April 6 from northern Indian River, Middle Banana River, Thousand Islands at Ramp road, Eau Gallie Causeway, Melbourne Causeway, W. Cocoa Beach Causeway and Sykes Creek (80 total samples). Results are expected the end of the week.
- DEP Deputy Secretary Drew Bartlett and SJRWMD Executive Director Dr. Ann Shortelle visited Brevard County April 6 to discuss the current state of the Indian River Lagoon. They heard from local representatives about the issue and shared with those individuals what each agency is doing to help with improvements.
Northern Indian River Lagoon Brown Tide Event
- Water from Lake Okeechobee does not reach Brevard County through the Indian River Lagoon; therefore, there is no evidence 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 environmental conditions.
- While brown algae is non-toxic to humans, it can reduce the amount of dissolved oxygen in the water, impacting fish and other wildlife.
- Response efforts:
- FWC continues to take and analyze water samples to monitor conditions associated with the fish mortality event; primarily low dissolved oxygen levels.
- DEP and SJRWMD 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 provide assurances regarding 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.
- The SJRWMD and partners continue to support oyster reef restoration efforts in northern Mosquito Lagoon.
- On March 30, the SJRWMD hosted a cost-share workshop in Palm Bay encouraging communities to apply for dollars for projects benefiting the Indian River Lagoon. More information on the cost-share program is available at http://www.sjrwmd.com/funding/FY2016-2017/
- Governor Rick Scott’s office distributed a press release on Friday, March 25th expressing strong support for the state, regional and local agencies assessing and responding to the algal bloom.
- FWC is taking weekly water samples from 8 to 10 sites in the Indian River Lagoon.
- The highest concentrations of brown tide were observed in samples taken on March 16 from Riverdale Drive and from March 25 at the Saint John Boat ramp in the northern Indian River Lagoon.
- 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.
- Calls can include information requests, fish kill clean-up, and reports of fish mortality and disease.
- Report a fish kill, diseased fish or fish with other abnormalities to 1-800-636-0511.
- Report sick or injured wildlife at 888-404-3922 or Tip@MyFWC.com
Other response efforts include
- The SJRWMD 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.
- 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.