Showing posts with label Indian River Lagoon. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Indian River Lagoon. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Men Charged With Using Gill Nets In Indian River Lagoon

MERRITT ISLAND, Florida – Four men were arrested for allegedly fishing with an illegal gill net in the Indian River Lagoon on Sunday.

Gill nets are designed to allow fish to get only their head through the netting, but not their body. The fish’s gills then get caught in the mesh as the fish tries to back out of the net. As the fish struggles to free itself, it becomes more and more entangled.

Gill nets pose a hazard to endangered species because dolphins and sea turtles can become entangled in the net and drown.

The men were allegedly fishing with a gill net in excess of 2,000 square feet, a third-degree felony, in the Banana River near Pineda Causeway off of south Merritt Island, Florida.

Florida Fish and Wildlife also charged the men for illegal possession of snook out of season; undersized red fish, stone crab, and sheeps head; and over the bag limits of sheeps head, red fish, and mullet; and failure to display a fishing license. 

All four men were booked in the Brevard County Jail on bonds exceeding $10,000.

Silver Springs, Maryland

Silver Springs, Maryland

Carlos Pineda- Durantes
Charlotte, North Carolina

David Santiago Salinas-Lopez
Orlando, Florida

Thursday, November 16, 2017

U.S. Coast Guard Saves Titusville Boaters On Indian River Lagoon

TITUSVILLE, Florida – The U.S. Coast Guard rescued two boaters Wednesday night after their vessel caught fire on the Indian River near Titusville, Florida.

Coast Guard Sector Jacksonville Command Center watchstanders were notified via VHF-FM marine-band radio channel 16 at 10:09 p.m. from two boaters who stated that they were awakened by smoke and their 48-foot catamaran was on fire.

A 29-foot Response Boat – Small (RBS) crew launched from Port Canaveral, Florida at 10:10 p.m. While the RBS crew was en route, the boaters radioed that they were abandoning ship and evacuating into their dinghy.

The RBS crew arrived on scene at about 10:25 p.m. and transferred the boaters to Marina Park where Titusville Fire Rescue crews were waiting.

The boaters were taken to Parrish Medical Center by fire rescue crews and were listed in stable condition. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Cape Canaveral and Cocoa Beach Stormwater Unable To Drain Due To High Banana River Levels

BREVARD COUNTY, Florida – High water levels in the Banana River portion of the Indian River Lagoon is preventing stormwater drainage in Cape Canaveral and north Cocoa Beach, Florida.

Record rainfall from Hurricane Irma and subsequent record rain events in September and October 2017, coupled by the release of millions of gallons of water from the St. John’s River through the C-54 canal have raised water levels throughout the Indian River Lagoon.

Both Cape Canaveral and Cocoa Beach rely on the Banana River basin for natural and stormwater drainage. But the already high levels in the Banana River is causing standing water to be present in all of the storm water lines in Cape Canaveral and areas of Cocoa Beach north of State Road 520.

The City of Cocoa Beach is asking residents, especially north of State Road 520, to conserve water usage to decrease the amount of sewer and stormwater.

“The lift stations are taxed and water has nowhere to go,” said Cocoa Beach Mayor Ben Malik.

The City of Cape Canaveral advised resident that the stormwater cannot completely drain until the water level in the Banana River recedes.

Photo credit: City of Cape Canaveral

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Representative Randy Fine To Hold Brevard County Accountable For Sewage Dumped In Lagoon

Florida Representative Randy Fine is “fired up” over millions of gallons of raw sewage being dumped in the Indian River Lagoon by Brevard County and other local municipalities as well as repeated water main failures.

“I’m pretty fired up this morning about the ongoing infrastructure disaster we are watching play out across Brevard County,” Fine said on Friday.

“For me, the water failure yesterday afternoon was the last straw. My office is calling all water and sewage utilities in Brevard to develop a list of how many times, and on what dates, we have had service failures, including lack of service, boil water notices, requests to stop using services, and sewage released into the lagoon. I will share this list once it is done.”

Millions of gallons of sewage have been dumped into the Indian River Lagoon by Brevard County government officials after record rainfall in September produced floodwaters that seeped into broken sewer lines, especially around Indian Harbour Beach and Satellite Beach.

“This might be acceptable if it happened once in a blue moon. But these discharges are all too frequent. It is a disgrace,” Fine added.

The last time more rain fell on Florida’s Space Coast within a single month was just nine years ago during Tropical Storm Fay in August 2008.

“Some like to say that we have to be understanding, because it has rained a lot. Guess what? This is Florida. It rains. We have hurricanes. In business, you plan for the worst, and then hope for the best. In government, it seems you plan for the best, and then make excuses when the worst happens.”

“Government has a few basic functions, and making sure we can wash our hands, our kids can drink out of the water fountains, and we don’t put feces in our waterways ought to be at the top of the list. No one can have a reasonable life without these,” Fine continued.

“Unfortunately, some of our politicians think taxpayer funds are better spent on parades, art festivals, instituting carbon taxes, hiring themselves for $100K second jobs, handing out corporate welfare, and taxpayer-paid monthly fancy dinners. It is unacceptable, and I’m furious. I’ll be working on legislation to address.”

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Rescuers Free Entangled Dolphin Off Of Cocoa Beach

COCOA BEACH, Florida – A juvenile dolphin entangled in rope that was spotted by Wildside Tours swimming in the Banana River over a month ago off of Cocoa Beach, Florida was finally freed by SeaWorld animal rescue workers with the help of personnel from Florida Fish and Wildlife, Georgia Aquarium and NOAA Fisheries.


The first attempt to free the dolphin failed two weeks ago when the calf’s mother became protective and aggressive towards rescuers.

According to NOAA, entanglement can cause decreased swimming ability, disruption in feeding, life-threatening injuries, and death.  Approximately 11% of wild dolphins captured for study bear indications of prior entanglement. Researchers consider the Indian River Lagoon as one of the “hot spots” in Florida for bottlenose dolphin entanglements.

Photo credit: Wildside Tours

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Study: Dolphins In Captivity Healthier Than In Wild

Dolphins in captivity are healthier than two wild dolphin populations found in Florida and South Carolina, a new study finds.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Manatee Removed From Endangered Species List

The U.S. Department of the Interior announced on Thursday the downlisting of the West Indian manatee from endangered to threatened. Notable increases in manatee populations and improvements in its habitat allowed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to change the species’ status under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

The downlisting means that the manatee is no longer considered in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range, but is likely to become so in the foreseeable future without continued ESA protections.

Reclassification of manatees has been pending since 2007, when the USFWS first announced its intention to move manatees from the endangered list — meaning they were in imminent danger of extinction — to the “threatened” list, meaning they possibly could become at risk of extinction in the foreseeable future.

Today’s estimated population of 6,620 Florida manatees is a dramatic turnaround from the 1970s, when just a few hundred individuals remained. But the manatees’ continued high population count could spell trouble for the dying Indian River Lagoon.  That’s because an 800 to 1,200 pound adult sea cow can eat up 10% to 15% of its body weight daily in aquatic vegetation which mostly consists of seagrass.  

As the below graphic shows, there appears to be an inverse relationship with the manatee population counts and seagrass acreage in the Indian River Lagoon whenever the manatee count exceeds around 1,700 on Florida’s East Coast. 

For the fist time in the decades-long debate between manatee activists and the boating community, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) acknowledged that the increased manatee population does have an effect on nutrient load and seagrass loss in the Indian River Lagoon following a Brevard Times investigation in 2014.

“At the time the seagrass TMDLs were developed [in 2009], manatees were not considered as major nutrient contributors to the Indian River Lagoon because not all the data needed to quantify the manatee nutrient contribution were available.  It is worth noting that manatees have been part of the Indian River Lagoon ecosystem for a long time,” FDEP stated in an email to Brevard Times.

“Based on the Department’s Nutrient and Dissolved Oxygen TMDLs for the Indian River Lagoon and Banana River Lagoon report (FDEP, 2009), the long-term annual average TN [Total Nitrogen] and TP [Total Phosphorous] loads entering the Indian River Lagoon system are about 1511 tons and 216 tons, respectively.  The 25 to 109 tons of TN and 2 to 7 tons of TP contributed by manatees only account for about 1.7% to 6.7% of TN loads and 0.7% to 3.0% of TP loads entering the Indian River Lagoon system.”

“Manatees should actually be classed as a “recovered” species — meaning they are neither endangered nor threatened, and not listed within the ESA,” said Robert Atkins, president of Citizens For Florida’s Waterways, a Brevard County-based advocacy group for recreational boaters.

Atkins notes that delaying the decision longer than the decade it has taken would be a disservice to the integrity of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). “The people must have faith in the honest assessment of Government Agencies.”  In this case, Atkins emphasizes that the best available science confirms there is zero chance of manatee extinction over the next 100 years.

But the Save the Manatee Club contends that the declassification was premature and blames the Trump administration.

“FWS decided to prematurely downlist manatees without a proven viable plan for reducing record-high watercraft-related manatee deaths and without establishing a long-term plan for the anticipated loss of artificial winter warm water habitat on which more than 60% of the Florida manatee population depends,” said Patrick Rose, Executive Director for Save the Manatee Club. “A federal reclassification at this time will seriously undermine the chances of securing the manatee’s long- term survival. With the new federal administration threating to cut 75% of regulations, including those that protect our wildlife and air and water quality, the move to downlist manatees can only be seen as a political one.” 

Photo credit: FWC

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Help Find A Dolphin Swimming With A Rope Entanglement

COCOA BEACH, Florida – A dolphin entangled in rope was spotted by Wildside Tours swimming in the Banana River on Tuesday off of Cocoa Beach, Florida.


The dolphin was first seen swimming with a larger dolphin near Cocoa Beach High School. Another sighting of the dolphin pair was made later on Tuesday afternoon near some waterfront condominiums just north of the lagoon-end of Minuteman Causeway.

According to NOAA, entanglement can cause decreased swimming ability, disruption in feeding, life-threatening injuries, and death.  Approximately 11% of wild dolphins captured for study bear indications of prior entanglement. Researchers consider the Indian River Lagoon as one of the “hot spots” in Florida for bottlenose dolphin entanglements.

If you spot this entangled dolphin, call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission at 1-888-404-FWCC (3922) or the National Marine Fisheries Service Southeast Region Stranding Network 24-hour hotline at 1-877-WHALE HELP (1-877-942-5343).

Photo credit: Wildside Tours
Video credit: FOX 35

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

SeaWorld Releases Orphaned Baby Manatee Into Indian River Lagoon

BREVARD COUNTY, Florida – Almost three years after she was rescued, a female manatee has returned to the Florida’s natural waters. Amidst cheers and bittersweet tears, SeaWorld Orlando’s Rescue Team returned Blanche to Port St. John, Florida and watched her swim away, ready to begin her life in the wild.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Cocoa Police Rescue Family After Boat Capsizes

COCOA, Florida – Cocoa Police officers, with assistance from multiple agencies and several Good Samaritans, rescued a family of four, including a toddler and an infant, after their boat crashed and overturned in the Indian River near the Hubert Humphrey Bridge (State Road 520). 

At 10:40 p.m. on Friday, police responded to the area after receiving several 911 calls reporting a boat crash with several people in the water.

After arriving on scene, four patrol officers jumped into the water and began searching for the victims.  A Good Samaritan in a nearby boat also assisted in the search. 

The adults and the infant were quickly located – but the search continued for nearly one hour for a 23-month-old girl. Officers Matt Rush and Corporal Alan Worthy found the girl trapped underneath the overturned boat where she was staying afloat in a small pocket of air. Rush and Worthy pulled the child out from underneath the boat and delivered her to waiting paramedics for treatment. 

Police say that the toddler was wearing a life jacket and is in good condition along with the rest of her family. All of the passenger were later transported to the hospital for evaluation.

The Florida Wildlife Commission (FWC) is handling the crash investigation. The Brevard County Sheriff’s Office, Cocoa Fire Rescue, U.S. Coast Guard, and FWC assisted with the rescue.

Photo credit: Cocoa Police Department

Friday, June 10, 2016

Port Canaveral Donates $100K To Support Indian River Lagoon Public Education

PORT CANAVERAL, Florida – On Friday, the Canaveral Port Authority presented a $100,000 check to Dr. Duane DeFreese, Director of the Indian River Lagoon Council, in support of public education to address the causes of damage to the estuary and motivate collaborative community action on the solutions.

Presenting the check were Port Commissioners Bruce Deardoff and Wayne Justice. Port CEO John Murray and Port Director of Environmental Bob Musser also attended.

The Canaveral Port Authority Board of Commissioners unanimously voted for the contribution in May. The Board and audience applauded the proposal from Commissioner Bruce Deardoff, who said pollution from the past 100 years will not be an overnight fix, but change begins with raising public awareness and motivating the community to action.

“The continuing damage being inflicted upon the Indian River Estuary by the more than 1900 storm-water drainage pipes directing millions of gallons of fertilizer, leaves, freshwater sludge, and numerous pollutants into the lagoon is a major part of the problem,” according to Deardoff. “Identifying the problems is the first step, however, our intent is for the development of a long-term management plan that allows all of the community to participate in the solution.“

“Port Canaveral has a rich history of environmental stewardship and today’s vote demonstrates our continued commitment to our community as we work together for the protection of our area’s natural resources,” said Commissioner Chairman Jerry Allender.

Photo credit: Canaveral Port Authority

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Brevard County Explains Wastewater Discharges

Brown Algae In The Indian River Lagoon

BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. — Brevard County Utility Services detailed in a press release the three wastewater discharges that have occurred in 2016.

The first discharge occurred at the Barefoot Bay Wastewater Treatment Plant in February 2016. Operator error allowed 281,000 gallons of partially treated wastewater to enter a canal which flows four miles to the San Sebastian River – a tributary to the Indian River Lagoon in south Brevard County. According to the County, the partially treated wastewater was not raw sewage and was waiting for final filtering in preparation for use on the Barefoot Bay golf course.

The second February discharge occurred at the South Central Wastewater Treatment Plant in Viera, Florida. During that event, the water was diverted to holding ponds which were already near capacity. The subsequent overflow resulted in 1.5 million gallons of treated reclaimed water being discharged into a canal which flows to the St. Johns river – not the Indian River Lagoon.

Neither of the February incidents involved the discharge of raw sewage, the County explained. A consent order was issued by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection because neither of the discharges had been permitted. The administrative fines totaled $4,100 combined for the two discharges.

On Tuesday, May 10, a leaking sewer force main required repair. The County explained that the repair of the force main on South Patrick drive was complicated due to excessive inflow of groundwater in the excavation due to close proximity to a canal. The pipe was located nine feet deep into the ground. Utility staff and two underground contractors worked non-stop for 38 hours. After the first 24 hours, the ability to store and/or haul sewage was exhausted, so the County made the decision to divert sewage to a nearby canal to prevent backups into streets, homes or businesses. Additional staff and equipment was brought in to complete the repair as quickly as possible.

Photo credit: FWC

Monday, May 2, 2016

Last Day To Comment On KSC’s Impact On Indian River Lagoon

The 2011 Superbloom started in parts of the Indian River Lagoon closest to Kennedy Space Center.

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Florida – The public has until 5 p.m. May 2, 2016 to submit comments about how future operations at Kennedy Space Center may impact the local environment, including impacts to the Indian River Lagoon. Public comments can be emailed to: [email protected]

All Three Major Algae Blooms Erupted Around Kennedy Space Center

In 2011, an algae superbloom erupted in the northernmost portion of the Banana River that is bordered by Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.  According to the St. John’s River Water Management Districts investigation that followed, the superbloom then spread westward through the Barge Canal into the northern portion of the Indian River Lagoon near Cocoa. Eventually, this superbloom expanded northward through Haulover Canal and into southern Mosquito Lagoon to cover 132,500 acres.

In August 2012, a brown tide bloom began in the Mosquito Lagoon on the northern side of Kennedy Space Center and moved into the northern Indian River Lagoon near Titusville. The same brown tide reappeared in 2013.

In January 2016, a brown tide bloom reappeared in the northernmost portion of the Banana River that is bordered by Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

In March 2016, the biggest fish kill in the Indian River Lagoon’s history was first detected in the Banana River north of State Road 528 near KSC’s southeastern boundary.

Few People Live Where The Algal Blooms Started

The geographic locations of the algal blooms appear to contradict the most-often cited hypothesis that sewage, grass clippings, pet waste, and fertilizer from the surrounding civilian residents were the cause of the recent algae blooms.

That’s because the restricted federal lands of the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Canaveral National Seashore, and the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge make up most of those areas’ surrounding landmass. The inhabitants consist mostly of wildlife with feral hogs being an invasive species.

“Before NASA took control of the property that is now KSC, the area was home to many people who had livestock and/or citrus groves. As the people relocated to surrounding towns, their domestic hogs (Sus scrofa) were occasionally left behind,” the KSC Environment Impact study notes. “The mild central Florida winters and abundance of food resources made it possible for feral hog populations to explode.” There are no efforts currently underway to remove the feral hog population from KSC. Waste from domestic hogs has been determined as the cause of algal blooms in other parts of the U.S.

Additionally, a manatee population remains in the waters surrounding KSC on a year-round basis because the warm water discharge by the nearby Florida Power & Light power plant has disrupted their natural winter migration pattern. The power plant was built during the Apollo Era at that location to  provide  power for KSC’s operations and the neighborhoods nearby where the space workers lived. 

The manatee population has since exploded in the years leading up to the recent algae blooms, leading many to believe that the sea cows’ heavy seagrass consumption and resulting excrement contributed to the algae blooms. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection estimates that manatees contribute 25 to 109 tons (1.7% to 6.7% of the total) nitrogen and 2 to 7 tons (0.7% to 3.0% of the total) phosphorous entering the Indian River Lagoon system.

The Impact Of KSC Pollution On The Indian River Lagoon

Pollution from launch operations at Kennedy Space Center and neighboring Cape Canaveral Air Force Station has been occurring since the late 1950’s. According to NASA’s 2016 draft environmental impact study for Kennedy Space Center, ” … the ecologically, recreationally, and commercially important Indian River Lagoon adjacent to KSC has been impaired by the cumulative impacts of all point and non-point sources of pollutant loadings that have grown enormously in magnitude over the last half century.”

In more recent times, it was discovered that Space Shuttle launches release thousands of pounds of chemicals and metals into the air and onto the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and Indian River Lagoon. Specifically, a spike in the levels of aluminum, iron, manganese, and zinc were detected after each shuttle launch – the same elements used in the fuel for the solid rocket boosters.

Although the Space Shuttle program ended in 2011, NASA’s new Space Launch System will also use solid rocket boosters containing the same fuel type, but on a much larger scale. The SpaceX Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy use highly refined kerosene known as RP-1 and liquid oxygen which burns much cleaner than solid rocket propellants.

Iron can spark algae blooms

A NASA study discovered that iron-rich sand which traveled from the Sahara Desert sparked a red tide algae bloom off the coast of Florida. The iron became food for a bacteria which then produced a usable form of nitrogen that the red tide algae could consume and grow quickly. Iron was also purposely used to spark an algae bloom off the west coast of Canada in 2012.

Did Iron From Shuttle Launches Spark The 2011 Superbloom?

The 2011 Superbloom investigation headed by the St. Johnson River Management Water District couldn’t find a direct cause for the algal bloom, but the investigation didn’t look at whether iron or other chemicals from KSC sparked the 2011 algae bloom. Instead, researchers focused on finding sources of phosporous and nitrogen leading up to the superbloom.

The investigation also specifically excluded sampling areas near KSC and CCAF which was ground zero for all three major algal blooms in Brevard County, Florida.

The Superbloom investigation disclosed the missing data and how it could have affected the investigation’s findings: “… it likely underestimates the total area covered by muck in the superbloom region because the northern, restricted segments [of the Banana River] (BR1-2) and the extremely shallow BR6 segment were not surveyed.”

Additionally, the long laundry list of chemicals and metals produced by legacy pollution from half-a-century of rocket launches could also influence the food web of microorganisms in the Indian River Lagoon, causing some species to grow while inhibiting the growth of other species. However, that cause was not examined during the 2011 Superbloom investigation.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Brevard County Receives $800K for Indian River Lagoon Research and Aquatic Weed Removal

Thousands of dead fish float in Brevard County waters
Thousands of dead fish were killed by a brown tide algae bloom in the Indian River Lagoon in March 2016. Photo Courtesy of Katey Roebuck.

BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – The Brevard County Commission unanimously approved an agreement with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) on Tuesday for an additional $800,000 in state funding for a project to remove aquatic weeds from ponds, install water monitoring sensors, and map muck contaminants in the Indian River Lagoon.

This latest appropriation from the State of Florida builds on the previous $20 million awarded in the past two years for the Brevard County Muck Dredging Project, making a total investment of $20.8 million to date.

“Brevard County appreciates state assistance with projects to restore health to the Indian River Lagoon – a local, state and national treasure. Inadequate protections in the past have led to harmful muck accumulation,” said Brevard County Natural Resources Management Director Virginia Barker. “We are proud to be a partner in this important project.”

Aquatic Weed Harvesting

As part of the project, the County will receive $450,000 to remove aquatic weeds from ponds that ultimately drain into the Indian River Lagoon. The remaining $350,000 will go to water monitoring and muck testing.

“Removing aquatic weeds upstream of the lagoon will help to restore healthy water quality in the lagoon downstream,” Barker said. “The plants absorb nutrients.  If we remove them, we remove nutrients and organic debris that otherwise contributes to algae blooms and muck accumulation.”

Muck Testing and Mapping

Although the 2011 Superbloom, 2012 brown algal bloom, and 2016 brown algal bloom all started north of State Road 528 near Kennedy Space Center, the County will sample muck several miles to the south within seagrass segments at two sites located near south Merritt Island and west of Indialantic. 

Barker stated in an email to Brevard Times that the “[testing] areas supported brown tide blooms even though the blooms did not start there.” Barker also noted that the recent fish kill area included the Merritt Island testing site. 

“These areas were designated 2 years ago when we requested the funds from the Legislature,” Barker explained. “They were selected based on prior state modeling that identified these areas as needing the highest percentage load reduction for the North [Indian River] and Banana [River] BMAP [Basin Management Action Plan] areas, respectively.”

The muck samples will be tested for toxicity by students and citizen scientists as part of an educational/outreach component. After the testing is complete, color maps will be created to indicate levels of each contaminant. According to documents filed with the County, the maps will then be “distributed to inform decision makers in all agencies involved in prioritizing and funding lagoon restoration actions.”

Muck build-up consists of nutrient pollution, sediment, vegetation, 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 releases nutrients that feed algae blooms.

Water Monitoring

The state funding will also provide for the installation of Kilroy monitoring stations at two locations in the Indian River Lagoon to examine the exchange of nitrogen and phosphate pollutant loading between major sub-basins. The final station locations will be coordinated between the County and the St. John’s River Water Management District.

An array of water flow meters will also be installed adjacent to each Kilroy to estimate the total pollution transport between sub-basins of the lagoon using actual flow and concentrations measured at each Kilroy station.  

The Kilroys will provide live data that will be accessible to the public on the internet.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Indian River Lagoon Algae Bloom, Fish Kill Update April 7, 2016

Agency leadership from FWC, DEP, SJRWMD, and DOH toured the Banana River, starting near Cocoa Beach and down to Patrick Air Force Base. They were joined by Florida House Speaker Steve Crisafulli and State Senator Thad Altman. In addition, they met with U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Wayne R. Monteith and other partners at the base. Photo credit: USAF 45th Space Wing

  • 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.

Previous story:

BREVARD COUNTY, Florida – In an effort to keep Floridians informed of the state’s efforts to conserve fish and wildlife resources and protect the environment and economies of the communities on and around the Indian River Lagoon, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) will issue an Indian River Lagoon status update each weekday. These updates will help residents stay informed of the conditions in the lagoon, as well as the latest actions by the State of Florida.

On March 29th agency leadership from FWC, Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD) and Department of Health (DOH) 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, FWC and DEP crews assisting with cleanup led by Brevard County related to fish mortality.  

Northern Indian River Lagoon Brown Tide Update

Aerial view of fish mortality appears to be on the decline with no additional mortality at this time, according to FWC.

FWC is taking weekly water samples from 8-10 sites in the Indian River Lagoon and found that the highest concentrations of brown tide were observed in samples taken on 3/16 from Riverdale Drive and from 3/25 at the Saint John Boat ramp in the northern Indian River Lagoon.

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.

Muck Removal

Muck Removal In Cocoa Beach

The Residential Dredging and Muck Removal-Phase 1 Project is a joint project between Brevard County and the City of Cocoa Beach that is currently underway. The deposits of what has been termed “Muck” have been identified as an environmental blight on the Indian River ecosystem. Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) had made available to Brevard County $10,0000 for FY 2015 to removal this muck. The County was aware of Cocoa Beach’s active dredge and waterways maintenance program and offered to partner with the City to dredge and remove the muck from the six residential canals North of State Road 520. The County is providing $2,000,000 of the FDEP monies towards this project.

Study To Investigate If Fish Contribute To Algae Blooms In The Indian River Lagoon

BREVARD COUNTY, Florida – Surveys of groundwater, water quality and fish will help scientists better understand the pollution sources delivered to the Indian River Lagoon through groundwater and tributaries, according to the St. Johns River Water Management District. The surveys will also show how these nutrients are cycled into algal blooms.

On Friday, April 15, 2016, the district’s Governing Board approved a two-year joint funding agreement with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to study fresh, potentially nutrient-enriched groundwater seepage near the Eau Gallie River – a tributary to the Indian River Lagoon in Melbourne, Florida – to improve estimates of nutrient pollution associated with different land uses.

The district says that data collected by an autonomous underwater vehicle in a second survey will help to explain water quality variation between existing monitoring locations. 

A third survey will investigate the potential role of activities by fish to increase nutrient movement from sediments to open water and the potential of fish affecting bloom formation.

“The Indian River Lagoon is considered one of the most biologically diverse ecosystems in North America,” said St. Johns River Water Management District Executive Director Dr. Ann Shortelle. “This investigation will provide critical information to prioritize projects to improve water quality.”

Over the two years of the applied research, the USGS will provide about 40 percent of the cost and the district will fund the remaining 60 percent. The district stated in a release that the goal of the work is to better understand how algal blooms develop and persist and what management actions may be possible to reduce bloom severity and encourage a healthy lagoon dominated by seagrass.

The $926,000 total budget for the two years includes $194,000 per year for surveys of groundwater, $55,000 per year for surveys of water quality, and $25,000 per year for surveys of fish. USGS’s 40% cost share is comprised of $50,000 in funds and $328,166 in in-kind services.

Brown Algae In The Indian River Lagoon

In March 2016, a Brown Tide algae bloom erupted in the northern Indian River Lagoon which caused the biggest fish kill in Brevard County history. Brown tides are caused by the pelagophyte Aureoumbra lagunensis. The algae depletes the dissolved oxygen in the water to such a low level that fish suffocate and die.

Photo credit: FWC / Greg Workman
Infographic credit: SJRWMD



Tuesday, April 5, 2016

FWC: DNA Tests Confirm Brown Algae In Indian River Lagoon

Brown Algae In The Indian River Lagoon

BREVARD COUNTY, Florida – DNA samples taken from the Mosquito Lagoon confirmed the presence of brown tide matching 100 percent of sequences in samples from the 2012 brown tide in the Indian River Lagoon, according to FWC state biologist Dr. Kate Hubbard.

Hubbard said that the DNA results confirm a genetic match with the pelagophyte Aureoumbra lagunensis – the same brown tide species that has plagued the Texas Gulf Coast for years.

Brown tide concentrations were observed in 7 of 8 water samples taken by Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission personnel from the Northern Indian River Lagoon, Middle Banana River, Thousand Islands, Eau Gallie Causeway, and Melbourne Causeway following the biggest fish kill in the lagoon’s history. The highest brown tide concentrations were located in the Middle Banana River.

Results from water samples show the highest concentration of brown tide was at the 520 Slick Boat Ramp in the Banana River Lagoon and the lowest concentration was observed at the NASA Causeway.
Brown tide concentrations decreased at four sites in the Indian River Lagoon in follow up sampling on March 31st, one site each in the Indian River and Banana River Lagoon concentrations remained similar, and one site increased in the Banana River Lagoon (the 520 Slick Boat Ramp site).

“Getting answers to help address this serious situation is a top priority,” said FWC Executive Director Nick Wiley. “We are working closely with our partners and the local community to better understand the problem and help develop solutions. Florida’s natural treasures and wildlife are incredibly important to our state and we will continue to do all we can to ensure its protection and preservation.” 

Low dissolved oxygen conditions can occur during brown tides and cause fish kills, such as those observed in the Banana River over the last two weeks in March.

FWC did not take samples of the dead fish for toxicology studies because it was evident that the marine life had been killed from depleted oxygen levels in the water.

Photo credit: FWC / Greg Workman

Monday, April 4, 2016

Brevard County To Remove Indian River Lagoon Fish Kill Dumpsters

Brevard County Fish Kill Dumpster

BREVARD COUNTY, Florida – Dumpsters used to collect fish from a recent outbreak of brown tide and fish kills in Indian River Lagoon will be removed from five County park sites on Monday, signaling that coordinated efforts between county agencies and volunteers have helped eliminate much of the dead fish from the river’s shoreline and canals.

Areas between State Road 528 south to Eau Gallie Boulevard are where the majority of the fish were collected. The County coordinated a cleanup effort that involved several County departments, the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office Ag/Marine Unit and Brevard County inmates, St. Johns River Waterway Management and Keep Brevard Beautiful. Part of that effort included location of additional dumpsters at five park sites to make it convenient for drop-offs for property owners, volunteers and others involved in the lagoon relief effort.

On Monday, dumpsters put in place March 23 at Bicentennial Park in Cocoa Beach; Eau Gallie Boat Ramp, Melbourne; Kiwanis Island Park, Merritt Island; Kelly Park, Merritt Island; and POW/MIA at Pineda Causeway will no longer be available for collections of dead fish. Port Canaveral will also pull two dumpsters it had located off of State Road 528 as part of the cleanup response.

Indian River Lagoon Fish Kill Dumpster

Officials will continue to monitor the river, however. The fish kill was caused by algae blooms that depleted oxygen levels in the water. Earlier this week, Brevard County’s Board of County Commissioners also took steps to help the long term condition of the Indian River Lagoon, including:

A request for as much as $200 million from the state for muck removal

A request to streamline the permitting process for dredging and lagoon-related environmental projects

A request for state-mandated septic tank inspections when homes are sold

A proposal to increase the County’s Tourist Development tax on hotel rooms and short-term rentals from 5 percent to 6 percent, and dedicate that increase toward lagoon projects.

Commissioners also passed a resolution declaring the lagoon as one of the county’s highest priorities.

Keep Brevard Beautiful will continue to coordinate volunteer efforts as needed, and is always looking for volunteers. KBB can be reached at (321) 631-0501.