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.

ADDRESSING STORMWATER POLLUTION

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Jean Catchpole, Indian River Neighborhood Association
Judy Orcutt, Clean Water Coalition of IRC

Stormwater runoff is a major transporter of pollution to our water bodies.   The sources of the pollution in stormwater come from US.  They are the substances that drain off our residences. They include chemicals that run off the hard surfaces of roads and parking lots.  Some of the pollution enters the soil and is transported by groundwater to ditches and canals, like septic tank effluent, which can contain pharmaceuticals and other toxins.
 
Our stormwater drainage system has made it possible for people to live in Indian River County without fear of flooding.  But this same efficient system carries pollution to the Lagoon and the ocean.  The best solution to our stormwater problem is to stop the pollution at the source!  To reduce the amounts of chemicals, trash, motor oil and pet waste that is allowed to enter drainage systems. 
 
Local governments are working to stop pollution at the source by limiting the types and times that fertilizer may be applied.  City and County utilities have plans in place to connect septic systems to sewer. Street sweeping is used effectively to pick up debris coming off roads and bridges.  All of these initiatives reduce stormwater pollution.
 
Large and costly projects have been completed by Indian River County to remove nutrient pollution from canal waters.  Two of these projects treat water in the Main Relief Canal:  Egret Marsh and PC Main Screening System.  The South Relief Canal is treated by Osprey Marsh/ Osprey Acres and a new project is underway for the North Relief Canal.  In addition, building regulations require new subdivisions to hold runoff on site in stormwater retention areas. 
 The City of Vero Beach is the oldest part of Indian River County with infrastructure installed 50 years ago using old technology and outdated building codes. A high percentage of the City is impervious. Heavy rains reveal the inadequacy of the stormwater system.  Occasionally, the City’s beaches are closed following rain due to a high enteric bacteria count in the surf.  The most likely source is septic effluent in ground water draining through outfall pipes into the ocean. 
The majority of downtown Vero Beach drains into the Main Relief Canal without any stormwater treatment.  Funding for the City’s stormwater improvement projects are allocated from the General Budget.  Unfortunately, those funds are often appropriated for unplanned emergencies.  Mainly repairs and maintenance of the stormwater system are allocated in the City’s current 5-year Capital Improvement Budget.
 
Reduction of stormwater pollution will depend on new projects to filter and treat runoff before it reaches the Lagoon.  No doubt these projects will be costly but, by having a dedicated source of funds, the City will be eligible for cost-share matching grants from State agencies to leverage stormwater dollars.   As proposed by the consultant, the Stormwater Utility could generate approximately $1 million/year to be spent on water quality improvement projects.  For the average residential property, the fee is estimated to be about $5/month – the cost of a fast food meal!
 
Our economy and quality of life depends on clean water.  Please support the establishment of a Stormwater Utility in Vero Beach.

If you want to show your support, please click here to sign our petition!

Indian River Launches New COVID-19 Vaccine Registration System

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Today, 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 by going to tinyurl.com/IRCvaccine.  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.

Appointments are scheduled based on availability of the vaccine and the date an individual registered. Registrants will only be notified when vaccine has been received by the Department of Health in Indian River County and there is an available appointment for them.

Based on the contact information provided during registration, the system will send appointment notifications via call, text and/or email. Individuals will be asked to confirm the appointment date and time or decline if they are not available for the appointment window that has been offered.  Declining will not remove the person from the queue. Their place in the queue will be held and they will receive another notification as soon as the next appointments are made available. Appointment notifications will expire four hours after the notification is issued. If the notification expires without a response, then that person will be placed back into their original place in the queue and will receive another notification as soon as the next appointments are made available.

Information on Florida residency requirements for receiving the vaccine, what to bring to an appointment and other Frequently Asked Questions is available online HERE.

Earthjustice sues on behalf of conservation groups to stop EPA rubber-stamping Florida wetlands destruction

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Article originally appeared at: https://www.stjohnsriverkeeper.org/earthjustice-sues-on-behalf-of-conservation-groups-to-stop-epa-rubber-stamping-florida-wetlands-destruction/

EPA’s approval of developer-backed scheme to turn permitting over to state violates U.S. environmental laws

Washington, D.C.  – Earthjustice filed suit today to stop an attempt by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to allow Florida to fast-track wetlands permits for construction projects that will degrade and ruin Florida’s natural landscape, all in violation of federal environmental laws.

While a worldwide pandemic is threatening lives and livelihoods across the United States, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is green lighting Florida’s proposal to take over the federal program that issues permits when developers and others want to fill sensitive marshes, cypress forests, ponds and other wetlands – Section 404 of the Clean Water Act. In EPA’s rush to push this through, the agency skirted procedural requirements — failing even to make the state program legally effective.

Lisa Rinaman, your St. Johns Riverkeeper, said: “Important checks and balances that have protected thousands of acres of wetlands within our watershed will be lost without federal oversight.” 

Take Action: Help Us Protect Our Wetlands!

EPA fast-tracked the approval, ignored Tribal and public input, and violated several federal laws. Contact EPA leadership and let them know that 404 assumption is bad for Florida:

  • Email EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler at: wheeler.andrew@epa.gov
  • Email the EPA’s forthcoming Acting Regional Administrator John Blevins at: blevins.john@epa.gov
  • Or tweet: @EPAAWheeler #No404Assumption

Earthjustice is representing the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, the Sierra Club, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, the Florida Wildlife Federation, Miami Waterkeeper, and St. Johns Riverkeeper in the case filed today in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

“This reckless scheme violates several of our bedrock laws, including the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Water Act, and lets developers avoid the National Environmental Policy Act, also known as ‘the people’s environmental law,’” said Tania Galloni, Earthjustice Managing Attorney for Florida. “EPA is lowering the bar to allow a state, for the first time, to run the federal wetlands program without meeting federal standards.  Developers have called this the ’holy grail’ because it would make it easier, faster and cheaper for them to get permits for big projects with less oversight and accountability for environmental impacts.”

“Florida’s record of wetlands protection is already abysmal,” said Earthjustice attorney Bonnie Malloy, “and now is not the time for the federal government to turn over a massive Clean Water Act program to a state with a shrinking budget amid the economic losses in the pandemic. It is deeply troubling that EPA and Florida rushed this process in the midst of a pandemic when families are focused on their health, communities and jobs. They were so hurried, in fact, they failed to follow the necessary procedures to make the transfer of authority legally effective.”

Jason Totoiu, senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, said: “The toxic algae blooms that now plague Florida are a direct result of the state’s decades-long failure to protect our waterways from wildlife-choking pollution. Now the state wants to make it even easier to dredge and fill wetlands that help filter these pollutants from entering our lakes, estuaries, and springs. Floridians will not stand for this absurd backward step that will only increase harm to the wild places that make Florida so special.”

Amber Crooks, Environmental Policy Manager for the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, said: “As Florida and its residents grapple with a never-ending onslaught of growth and development, protection for our natural resources should be strengthened, not further weakened.”

Kelly Cox, General Counsel for Miami Waterkeeper, said: “EPA’s decision undermines the intent of the Clean Water Act 404 program – to provide important oversight and scrutiny over our vulnerable wetlands. Instead, it puts these places directly in the line of fire. This decision is deeply disappointing and runs contrary to the public interest. The state of Florida and the federal government have once again prioritized special interests and the development-driven bottom line over environmental protection.”

In their lawsuit, the groups point out that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s approval of Florida’s application to assume jurisdiction over the Clean Water Act permitting program is unlawful because Florida fails to demonstrate adequate authority to carry out the wetlands permitting program, fails to ensure protection of animals and plants under the Endangered Species Act, and fails to demonstrate it has sufficient funding and staffing to implement and enforce the program.  The state program does not have equivalent permit requirements, enforcement authority, access to courts, public notice, public participation opportunities, and other components that are integral parts of the federal program.  The EPA rushed to approve this program so that it may take effect by January 19, 2021, despite these and many other substantial gaps in the state’s proposal.

The groups are also challenging decisions that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers made in connection with EPA’s review of Florida’s application to assume responsibility for wetlands permitting.  Specifically, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service violated the Endangered Species Act by failing to ensure there would be “no jeopardy” to protected animals and plants if Florida took over the program and granting broad protection to developers who “incidentally” harm protected species.  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also created an unlawful scheme for purportedly reviewing the state’s decisions on individual permits that may harm federally protected species.  And the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers violated the Administrative Procedure Act and Rivers and Harbors Act with its grossly truncated list of waters that it will continue to oversee.

Cris Costello, Organizing Manager of the Sierra Club, said:  “We are acting to set aright the present topsy turvy state of affairs.  This is an especially egregious example of what the DeSantis DEP has done over and over again now — join forces with Florida’s most callous polluters in assaults on our environment all the while claiming to be doing it a favor.  The fact that Trump’s EPA blessed this assault is par for the course.”

“Giving Florida the green light to issue permits to dredge and fill wetlands threatens the diversity of wildlife that live there,” said Lindsay Dubin, staff attorney at Defenders of Wildlife. “Endangered Florida panthers, endangered red-cockaded woodpeckers, and threatened Eastern indigo snakes are among the species that could be impacted if the state of Florida assumes permitting responsibilities without the proper laws, resources, and oversight in place. With more than 1 million species at risk of extinction worldwide, the clock is ticking. We should be protecting these species, not making it easier to destroy their habitat.”

Contacts:
Lisa Rinaman, St. Johns Riverkeeper, (904) 256-7591, lisa@stjohnsriverkeeper.org

Tania Galloni, Earthjustice Managing Attorney for Florida, (305) 726-1627, tgalloni@earthjustice.org

Bonnie Malloy, Earthjustice attorney, (850) 322-8086, bmalloy@earthjustice.org

Jason Totoiu, Center for Biological Diversity, (561) 568-6740, jtotoiu@biologicaldiversity.org

Lindsay Dubin, Defenders of Wildlife, (202) 772-3234, ldubin@defenders.org

Cris Costello, Sierra Club, (941) 914-0421, cris.costello@sierraclub.org

Amber Crooks, Conservancy of Southwest Florida, (239) 776-5601, amberc@conservancy.org

Preston Robertson, Florida Wildlife Federation, (850) 656-7113, preston@fwfonline.org

Kelly Cox, Miami Waterkeeper, (305) 905-0856, kelly@miamiwaterkeeper.org