It must cost a lot to restore the Indian River Lagoon. How much do you think?
The Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program estimates the cost of projects will be some $5 billion. With two-thirds of the lagoon in Brevard County, we face a big bill.
In 2016, Brevard took a major step by voting by more than 62 percent to establish the Save Our Indian River Lagoon Plan, funded by a 10-year, half-cent sales tax. The plan has raised $168 million to date and is expected to raise about $425 million by 2026 that is committed to identified projects that are cost effective in reducing nutrients in the lagoon.
Go to tinyurl.com/y3rty426 to read more about the hundreds of important projects completed and under way, each with matching funding.
This total barely reaches $1 billion, less than one-third of the estimated need, even taking account of the matching funds. What then?
A few other sources of funding have helped. The biggest is the St. Johns River Water Management District.
The state Legislature also has appropriated some funds for lagoon restoration in the past. Together, they amount to less than $100 million.
St. Johns is one of five water management districts in Florida with a mission to “ensure the sustainable use of Florida’s water for the benefit of the people of the district and the state.” This includes “cost-share projects with local governments, aquatic systems restoration.” St. Johns has done several multimillion-dollar projects in Brevard to help in the lagoon restoration.
Unfortunately, the revenue base (millage fee) of Florida’s Water Districts was cut almost in half during then-Gov. Rick Scott's tenure. This means future contributions by St. Johns to restoration projects for the lagoon seem less likely going forward. Restoration of these funds would go a long way toward providing resources for water quality projects throughout the state.
Additionally, due to the impacts of COVID-19 on the state budget, the Legislature is looking to cut billions and is unlikely to support efforts like lagoon restoration.
The Brevard Indian River Lagoon Coalition, its partners and others are looking for ways to continue the progress we have begun with the SOIRL efforts. Details are available at tinyurl.com/y76jsrqf.