Legislative appropriation helps fund muck dredging project
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection recently awarded Brevard County an additional $21.5 million legislative appropriation grant for Phase II of the Brevard County Muck Dredging project. This latest funding builds on the previous $20 million awarded in the past two years for muck removal in the Indian River Lagoon, for a total investment of $41.5 million to date.
Muck build-up is a result of nutrient pollution, sediment, grass clippings, leaves and other organic matter entering the Indian River Lagoon over time and accumulating at the bottom. As muck decomposes, it consumes oxygen needed by fish and it releases nutrients that feed algal blooms. Muck sediments also negatively impact navigation and can damage seagrass beds.
“Eliminating current sources of muck is a crucial step toward improving water quality and the overall health of the Lagoon,” said DEP Interim Secretary Ryan Matthews. “Brevard County continues to demonstrate its commitment to protect and restore the Indian River Lagoon and we look forward to continued collaboration to protect this important resource.”
This newest phase of the project will remove approximately 400,000 additional cubic yards of muck sediments from the south Sykes Creek and Grand Canal sites within the Indian River Lagoon, the Banana River Lagoon and associated tributaries.
“We are grateful to DEP for this additional funding to help restore the Indian River Lagoon,” said Virginia Barker, Brevard County Natural Resources Management Department director. “The continuation of muck removal projects is important to the overall health, productivity, aesthetic appeal and economic value of the Lagoon, and saving the Lagoon is a top priority for the people who live, work and play here.”
Previous funding includes $20 million for the ongoing Phase I of the Brevard County Muck Dredging project, which when completed will remove approximately 350,000 cubic yards of muck from the north Cocoa Beach, Mims boat ramp and Turkey Creek sites within the Indian River Lagoon, the Banana River Lagoon and associated tributaries. Additionally, $800,000 was awarded to identify sources of muck in the Indian River Lagoon and remove aquatic vegetation from the Lagoon watershed.
Together, both phases of the muck dredging project are estimated to remove a total of approximately 1,400 tons of nitrogen and 300 tons of phosphorous contained within Indian River Lagoon muck sediments.
The Indian River Lagoon Research Institute at Florida Institute of Technology (FIT), has been awarded $1.5 million to assist in monitoring project effectiveness, as well as conduct research on the chemical, physical and biological effects of muck removal within the Indian River Lagoon system.
“FIT is proud to be a research partner in this project,” said Professor Emeritus Dr. John Windsor at Florida Institute of Technology Department of Ocean Engineering and Science. “It was very foresighted of the legislature, DEP and Brevard County to assess the benefits of environmental muck dredging in coastal waters and support the research necessary to optimize Indian River Lagoon restoration from muck removal. It is also important for our students to experience how one state, one school or one person can change the world and help save a national treasure like the Indian River Lagoon, and be prepared to continue the ongoing restoration and maintenance plan.”
The department is working aggressively to improve water quality in the Indian River Lagoon by identifying and funding additional wastewater and stormwater projects to reduce the amount of nutrients going into the Lagoon, as well as dredging projects to remove muck from the bottom of the Lagoon.
Governor Rick Scott’s “Fighting for Florida’s Families” budget proposes funding for a 50/50 state matching grant program with local communities, including those along Indian River Lagoon, to provide funding to encourage residents to move from septic tanks to sewer systems in order to curb pollution that is currently entering impacted water bodies. Additionally, this proposal will support local communities to help build wastewater systems to meet the increased demand for wastewater services.
About DEP’s Division of Water Restoration Assistance
The Division of Water Restoration Assistance is responsible for providing loans and grants for projects that improve the quality and quantity of the state’s water resources and provide a significant benefit to the environment and local communities. Projects in several program areas are funded that improve stormwater quality, reduce pollutants entering surface water and groundwater, protect springs, collect and treat wastewater, produce and distribute drinking water, nourish beaches and reclaim mined land. For more information, visit www.dep.state.fl.us/water/waterprojectfunding/.