Will we preserve our quality of life? Major community environmental issues facing Indian River County folks

The President’ Hoot
by Richard H. Baker, Ph.D.
February 2008

Potable Water to Drink.
Debby Ecker, who serves on our Board, will be our speaker this month, discussing where we get our water in Indian River County.  It is a timely topic as St. Johns River Water Management District has predicted that the Floridan Aquifer, where the county gets its water, will show problems as early as 2013, now only five years away!  Water will be the dominant issue for Indian River County this century.  Of course, we also will be facing global warming and environmental degradation on our beaches, and a population increase beyond our carrying capacity.   Although in Indian River County, we get over 50 inches of rain, our agriculture needs irrigation water during the extended period when we do not have rain.  Options available are 1) storing rain water, 2) removing salt from water from the boulder zone beneath the Floridan Aquifer, 3) removing salt from water from the Atlantic Ocean, or 4) reducing consumption. 

Photo by Bob Montanaro.

As we learned during last summer’s drought, storing water is problematical as even the largest freshwater lake outside of the Great Lakes, Lake Okeechobee, does not have enough water for agriculture and much water is lost through evaporation.  Getting the salt out of the boulder zone water or seawater requires lots of energy and technology and is expensive. In addition, disposing the brine from the desalination of the Floridan Aquifer is a serious environmental problem for the county without polluting the Indian River Lagoon as we are still doing.  Our county with the blessing of the Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection plans to put this industrial waste called brine in a marsh (now called Spoonbill Marsh in honor of all bird lovers) along the Lagoon.  Prior to choosing this option, we hope that the county will do further research and afterwards continue to monitor the environmental impact on the Lagoon.  Will we, the people, be able to reduce consumption by 50% using xeriscaping techniques? How do we educate ourselves?

The Selling of Florida Forever Lands.
We still have not heard from Governor Crist about the two appeals one from the County and the other jointly by PIAS, Friends of St. Sebastian River, and David Cox concerning St. Johns River Water Management District’s land swap of giving up the Sand Lakes Conservation Area. This land was purchased with limited Florida Forever Funds, yes, land to be preserved in Florida for Forever and Ever and traded to a landowner to settle a threatened, yes threatened lawsuit.  We are looking forward to presenting our case to the Governor and Cabinet that this is a bad deal, which makes no sense for the whole state, but is alas a sweetheart deal for the landowner.  Alternatively, the Governor and Cabinet could just tell St. Johns that this deal must not go through. 

Mining Ground Water.
The Indian River County Commissioners have asked the County’s Planning & Zoning Commission to develop new ordinances related to sand, rock, and water mining in Indian River County. Four workshops are being scheduled.  Hope you will attend and be involved. 

Organizations against this bad deal:

  • Pelican Island Audubon Society
  • City of Sebastian
  • City of Vero Beach
  • Indian River County
  • Indian River Neighborhood Association
  • Sierra Club Turtle Coast Group
  • Friends of St. Sebastian River
  • Audubon of Florida
  • Marine Resources Council  

Newspapers against this bad deal:

  • Press Journal
  • Orlando Sentinel
  • Palm Beach Post

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