BMAPs aren’t working. Here’s how to ask Florida elected officials to change the system

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TCPalm’s exclusive investigation of Florida’s flagship program to limit nutrient pollution flowing into Lake Okeechobee is the first to show that every single rainfall runoff drainage basin around the lake with available data exceeds the state limit.

Improving the state’s system depends on public attention and accountability. Readers who think the system isn’t working can contact their legislators to demand change.

Read the full investigation and see the map and all the charts.

Clean-water advocates have cited these possible solutions:

  • More funding to hire additional staff to inspect farms every two years as required
  • More water quality monitors gathering data to pinpoint pollution sources
  • Effective enforcement against farmers who don’t follow state rules
  • Limits on fertilizer use that could prevent harmful runoff into waterways.

Gov. Ron DeSantis

Sen. Debbie Mayfield

House Rep. Erin Grall

  • Represents: District 54 (all of Indian River; part of St. Lucie)
  • Capital address: 209 House Office Building, 402 S. Monroe St., Tallahassee, FL 32399-1300
  • District address: 1801 27th St., Suite B2-203, Vero Beach, FL 32960-3388
  • Capital phone: 850-717-5054
  • District phone: 772-778-5005
  • Email: erin.grall@myfloridahouse.gov
  • Website: myfloridahouse.gov
  • Twitter: @ErinGrall
  • Facebook: @ErinGrall4FLStateHouse

Check out this letter that the IRNA and CWC sent to Sen. Mayfield and Rep. Grall asking for more funding for FDEP and a revamp of the BMAP program.

We need your voice to be heard in Tallahassee! Please reach out and ask our elected officials to do everything in their power to protect our environment.

Florida Conservation Groups to Sue EPA over Manatee Deaths

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The Indian River Neighborhood Association, in its advocacy for protection of Indian River County resources, has been monitoring the State’s BMAP* program of TMDL** requirements and concluded it was inadequate to do the job of improving Florida’s polluted waterways. We are several years and millions of dollars into that program and, unfortunately, have not seen any regrowth of seagrass in the IRL. Even though the Marine Resource Council’s latest annual lagoon report shows improvement in water quality, there still is no seagrass growth. Obviously, we are not sufficiently addressing the problem.

On December 20th three conservation groups signed an intent to sue the Federal Environmental Protection Agency under the Clean Water and Endangered Species Acts for failing to protect manatees from water pollution in Florida. Earth Justice attorneys will represent the Defenders of Wildlife, Save the Manatee Club and Center for Biological Diversity in their pending suit. They have tasked the EPA to reinitiate consultation with the Fish & Wildlife Service to re-assess water quality standards. The death of over 1000 manatees in our state, the majority of which occurred in the IRL, has spurred this action and raised awareness, not only in our state but across the country, to the water pollution problems in the State of Florida…especially those causing the death of the manatees.

They are the nitrogen and phosphorous and a number of other contaminants coming from fertilizer, inadequate waste water treatment, leaking septics and stormwater runoff. These pollutants are well known to those of us in Indian River County who have been educating our residents to the dire health of our lagoon and urging our State and local lawmakers for legislation that will prevent further pollution. These pollutants feed the algae blooms that cloud the water preventing needed sunlight from reaching the seagrass beds. Seagrass is a nursery for juvenile marine life, a filter and co2 absorbent as well as the mainstay of the manatee’s diet.

We are sending letters of endorsement to the three conservation groups and Earth Justice as they task the U.S. Government Environmental Protection agency for stronger regulations and enforcement of existing regulations governing the reduction of nutrient pollution in Florida waters. All are non-profit organizations that will need moral and financial support to succeed. It’s a bold step in the right direction and a necessary action; something we have contemplated for many years as the only way to garner significant attention to the State’s water pollution problems. Stay tuned. The future of Florida’s waterways is at stake.

Please contact these organizations for more information. Earth Justice. Defenders of Wildlife. Save the Manatee Club. The Center for Biological Diversity.

*BMAP (Basin Management Action Plan) Overall plan for pollution reduction in designated water basin
**TMDL (Total Maximum Daily Load) Pounds of Nitrogen and Phosphorous allowed to enter water body

IRNA Year in Review

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This has been an interesting, and busy, year in IRC. The Indian River Neighborhood Association made progress on a range of issues and will continue to do so in 2022.

Below is a brief recap of some of the work the IRNA has done on your behalf this year.

  • At the urging of the IRNA and other environmental groups, the City of Vero Beach adopted a Stormwater Utility to better address flooding and reduce lagoon pollution. Vero Beach joined the hundreds of municipalities which have Stormwater Utilities across the state.
  • We continued to advocate at both City and County for septic to sewer conversions. Septic to sewer in Sebastian and West Wabasso continue, and we are following their progress.
  • We urged the City of Vero Beach to speed up conversions to the STEP system on the barrier island by setting a date-certain for conversion. This is still a work in progress, which we will continue to advocate for in 2022.
  • We kept a focus on Vero Beach’s Three Corners Project as the process proceeds. We want to have input that the development respects the environment and represents the City of Vero Beach well. 
  • We attended workshops and visioning meetings about the future of the county, advocating for smarter growth and low impact development. This is going to be a major focus of our Land Use committee in the coming year.
  • The Vero Beach Marina expansion has been in full swing. We have been monitoring and following these changes carefully.
  • The City of Vero Beach is working on a pipeline using canal water as an alternative water supply to provide irrigation to the barrier island. We have met with staff multiple times to work out some kinks and ensure that the pipeline is as environmentally safe as possible.
  • We monitored and offered comment to the Stormwater and Onsite Sewage Treatment & Disposal System (OSTDS) Technical Advisory Committees (TAC) meetings that are devising new FDEP regulations as per SB712, the Clean Waterways Act
  • We outlined IRNA’s priorities to our local legislators. Click here to read what we advocated for.
  • We studied and met with City, County, and State FDEP staff over required Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDL) for FDEP’s Basin Management Action Plan (BMAP) program. (Learning all the acronyms is a full-time job!) 
  • We sent letters to editor and other outreach reminding residents of the summer fertilizer ban and other issues as they arose
  • We created a video to raise awareness of how pollution in the IRL is affecting its marine life. Click here to watch it. (It’s very good and only runs a few minutes!)
  • We financially supported Pelican Island Audubon’s initiative to install a Native Plant Garden at the County Administration Complex. It will serve as an example of how attractive native landscaping can be and encourage more adoption. Over 60% of residential water use in Florida goes to watering grass. We need to do better here! 
  • With the 2004 Land Acquisition bond maturing in 2021, we began the process of renewing the bond. We are working towards a ballot initiative in November 2022 authorizing the purchase of environmentally sensitive areas. To save the water we need to save the land.  More information to come on this throughout 2022.
  • We published and distributed thousands of copies of our Spring and Fall Indian River Neighborhood Magazines featuring articles from over a dozen different experts in their fields. Check out our magazine archive on our website by clicking here. A direct link to the current issue can be found by scrolling down this email.

We will continue to keep you informed of these issues and others that surface in 2022.  But we need your help!  We ask that you stay abreast of what is going on locally and lend your voice to our causes of restoring the lagoon, protecting our natural resources, managing growth, and more. There is not much more dangerous than an uninformed citizen!

We couldn’t do what we do without you, so it is with profound thanks for your past support that we wish you a Merry Christmas and a joyous new year!

Click the image above to find out how to make a year-end tax-deductible donation to the IRNA.

For the over 9 out of 10 people who no longer itemize their charitable giving. Just like last year, individuals who take the standard deduction can claim a deduction of up to $300 on their 2021 federal income tax for their charitable cash contributions made to the IRNA. For married individuals filing a joint return, the maximum deduction is increased to $600. (Source).

Or consider making a tax free Qualified Charitable Distribution (QCD) from your IRA. If you make a contribution as part of your Required Minimum Distribution, the amount you contribute comes right off the top and is not part of the taxable amount.

Our tax ID number is: 20-2631557. Thank you for your support!

IRNA and CWC Candidate Answers

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We would like to thank all the city council candidates who took the time to answer the questions posed to them from the IRNA and CWC. Click the appropriate button below to see the questions and answers from each city.

These questions were emailed to all candidates two weeks prior to the deadline. All candidates were asked to and did confirm receipt of the questions. This is the text of the email that was sent to all the candidates:

The Clean Water Coalition of Indian River County along with the Indian River Neighborhood Association has compiled a list of questions that we would like you to answer relating to some of our issues of concern. Our combined memberships are in the thousands in Indian River County and the municipalities. 

Please see the attached document and confirm that you have received a copy by replying to this email. If we do not hear back from you saying you received it, we will follow up with a phone call to make sure that this email address is correct and that you have plenty of time to address our questions. All answers submitted will be published on our websites, social media accounts, and shared potentially wider. The words will not be changed from what you send us, even if there is a typo. We ask that your responses be returned to us by Thursday, September 23 — the day mail-in ballots are sent out. This will give us time to share your answers before anyone has a ballot in their hands. 

CWC and IRNA will NOT be endorsing any candidates in this election. We are both 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations and so we ask you these questions and publish your answers as materials to educate the voters to your positions on these important issues. 

Thank you for your time, again please confirm you received this email and the attached document and we look forward to reading and sharing your answers. 

Summer Fertilizer Reminder

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To residents of Indian River County, the City of Vero Beach, Sebastian, and Orchid, a reminder that the fertilizer ordinance will soon be in effect. We are coming into our rainy season when more nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorous (as well as herbicides, pet waste, etc,) are likely to be washed from our lawns, driveways, and roads into the stormwater system and, ultimately, into our already impaired Indian River Lagoon. The fertilizer ordinances passed by our communities go into effect on June 1. It prohibits the use of lawn fertilizer between June 1st and September 30th. No fertilizer containing Phosphorous is to be used at any time. All fertilizers must contain at least 50% slow-release Nitrogen. Finally, no fertilizer is to be applied within 10 feet of any water body.

If you use a lawn care provider, please discuss these regulations with them and ask them not to blow grass clippings onto the road or into storm drains. This vegetation contains the nutrients from fertilizer that only adds to the pollution of our waterways. For details regarding the ordinance and fertilizing tips, please see the County’s website: www.ircgov.com or email Alexis Peralta, the County’s Stormwaterslow-release educator, and fertilizer enforcement officer, at aperalta@ircgov.com.

For your health and the health of our waterways, complying with the fertilizer ordinance is more important than ever as excess nutrients encourage the growth of harmful algal blooms. These blooms are already being reported in other parts of our State.

Thank you,
Jean Catchpole, co-chair
IRNA Water & Lagoon Committee

“Where has all the Seagrass Gone?”

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Check out this great video below. Feel free to use the song and video wherever you think it could be of benefit to our water and lagoon!

Urge Gov. DeSantis to veto HB 337, HB421/HB 1101, and HB 487

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This year, the Legislature passed a lot of bills that the IRNA does not support. All sorts of organizations have probably asked you to reach out to our elected officials to ask them to support or oppose certain bills. Sadly, a lot of terrible bills, which will be costly not only to local governments but to you individually, have passed this session. More bills may be passed before the end of the session today, April 30th.  And, as it ends, our advocacy moves from our senator and representative to Gov. DeSantis. We may “call you to action” again to ask him to veto certain bills.

Please join us in urging Gov. DeSantis to veto HB 337, HB421/HB 1101, and HB 487. Let him know that you:

  • Do not want to be further financially burdened with paying for the cost of new development
  • Want your community to retain the ability to plan for community resilience, natural resource protection and more without additional costly legal challenges that ultimately would be paid for by taxpayers
  • Want the state to continue its current process to review development proposals for impacts on natural lands and water, roads and more

You can reach Gov. DeSantis at 850-717-9337 or governorron.desantis@eog.myflorida.com. As always, calls are best.

Last year, Gov. DeSantis was receptive to your appeals and vetoed SB 410 which would have led to high-density development in designated rural areas. We trust his commitment to managing the impacts of growth and sea level rise and reducing the burden on taxpayers will lead him to veto this year’s damaging legislation.

We sincerely appreciate your ongoing support,

Indian River Neighborhood Association Board of Directors

Bills Background

  • HB 337 on impact fees will curtail the amount that local government can increase impact fees charged to developers for the cost of roads, sewer lines and other infrastructure necessitated by that new development. HB 337 makes it virtually impossible for local governments to require that new development pays its own way. Impacts: Existing residents will shoulder even more of the costs associated with new development through raised taxes, declining roads, parks, and other public infrastructure, or both.
  • HB 421 & HB 1101 on “property rights” will have a chilling effect on the ability of local governments to enforce their comprehensive plans and land development regulations and adopt new provisions related to community resilience and other critical issues. While Florida already has among the strongest property rights laws in the nation, this bill makes local governments even more vulnerable to legal challenges over planning decisions. It also will have a very chilling effect on local governments that want to better plan to avoid future development in areas at high risk for sea-level rise and flooding. This bill could also have the unintended consequence of subjecting local governments to legal challenges (and major financial settlements) for planning decisions made decades ago. Impacts: Increased taxes due to local governments being required to pay large settlements for numerous legal challenges; less planning protection for natural lands and waters; a declining quality of life; and reluctance to plan for community resilience due to local government concerns about potential legal challenges and settlement costs.
  • HB 487 on small-scale amendments will reduce oversight of proposed development projects. Currently, the State acts as a “back-stop” with the ability to review certain developments for their impacts on the environment, public services and quality of life. HB 487 would increase by five-fold the size of developments that can skip a thorough state review — as many as 50 acres in urban areas and 100 acres in rural areas. Impacts: Due to this legislation, there will be less opportunity for citizens and state agencies to raise questions about environmental, transportation and other impacts of proposed development, and see those concerns remedied without filing a legal challenge.

IRNA Stormwater Video

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If you haven’t signed our petition yet, click here to do so now!

April is Water Conservation Month

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Water Conservation is so important!

As we enter April, typically a dry month in Florida, we’re focusing additional attention on water conservation. The Board of County Commissioners will approve a proclamation designating April as Water Conservation Month (See the proclamation below.) Many local governments throughout the state have approved similar proclamations, showing their support for water conservation and urging residents to take action.

For example, homeowners who have in-ground sprinkler systems often use 50 percent of their household water irrigating the landscape. An irrigation system that is efficient and correctly scheduled (only when needed and only on designated watering days) can save about half of that water use resulting in an average annual savings on your water bill.

We are proud that our local governments and many businesses and individuals are serious about water conservation and protecting Florida’s water.

As we enter Water Conservation Month, see more tips on how to save water here!

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PROCLAMATION

DESIGNATING APRIL 1 THROUGH APRIL 30, 2021, AS WATER CONSERVATION MONTH IN INDIAN RIVER COUNTY

WHEREAS, water is a basic and essential need of every living creature; and

WHEREAS, The State of Florida, Water Management Districts and Indian River County are working together to increase awareness about the importance of water conservation; and

WHEREAS, Indian River County and the State of Florida has designated April, typically a dry month when water demands are most acute, Florida’s Water Conservation Month, to educate citizens about how they can help save Florida’s precious water resources; and

WHEREAS, Indian River County has always encouraged and supported water conservation, through various educational programs and special events; and

WHEREAS, every business, industry, school and citizen can make a difference when it comes to conserving water; and
WHEREAS, every business, industry, school and citizen can help by saving water and thus promote a healthy economy and community; and

WHEREAS, Indian River County is calling upon each citizen and business to help protect our precious resource by practicing water-saving measures and becoming more aware of the need to save water.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT PROCLAIMED BY THE BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS, INDIAN RIVER COUNTY, that the month of April 2021, be designated as WATER CONSERVATION MONTH in Indian River County, and all citizens are encouraged to use this occasion to increase their awareness of the importance of water conservation and the need to use water more efficiently.

Adopted this 6th day of April, 2021

COVID VACCINATIONS

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Indian River County Health Department Vaccinations

Indian River County and the State Health Department in Indian River County launched a new COVID-19 vaccine registration system through Everbridge. Florida residents who are 65 years and older or are frontline healthcare workers can now register for the waitlist. To sign up, eligible residents should 
complete the online registration form Here. Residents who need technical assistance with online registration or do not have Internet access can also register by calling our call center (772) 226-4000, which is open Monday through Friday from 9:00 am – 5:00 pm. 
 
Publix Vaccinations

Appointments for Publix vaccinations can only be made online.  Once you are on the website, scroll down to the county you live in and if there are appointments available it will indicate that. 
Here is a video that explains how to sign up for the vaccine at Publix:

Guide to book a COVID-19 vaccine appointment at Publix – YouTube
Hint – there have been reports that the page refreshes itself when making an appointment.  Don’t refresh the page yourself or you will lose your spot.  Here is the link to the sign up page:
https://www.publix.com/covid-vaccine/florida
 
Sharecare Statewide System

The state recently announced the launch of a statewide preregistration system to schedule COVID-19 vaccine appointments for individuals 65 and older and frontline health care workers. Individuals can pre-register for vaccine appointments and be notified when appointments are available in their area by visiting 
https://myvaccine.fl.gov/.
This website will allow individuals who are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine to be proactively contacted when vaccine appointments are available through your local health department. On the site, residents can select their county and submit their contact information. Once appointments are available, individuals will be contacted by phone call, text or email and will be assisted in scheduling an appointment.
 

Other Retail Options


Walmart and Sam’s Club – http://www.walmart.com/COVIDvaccine and http://www.samsclub.com/covid
Winn-Dixie – https://www.winndixie.com/pharmacy/covid-vaccine
 
Vaccine supply remains limited and appointments may not be available immediately.