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September 9, 2014
St. Johns District Board approves funding for Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program restructuring
The St. Johns River Water Management District’s Governing Board on Sept. 9, 2014, approved providing $500,000 to restructuring the Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program (IRL NEP).
The Board’s action follows Gov. Rick Scott’s direction Monday that the Florida Department of Environmental Protection commit $250,000 annually to a restructured program. The South Florida Water Management District’s Governing Board will consider IRL NEP funding on Sept. 11.
“We appreciate Gov. Scott’s support in moving this new partnership forward,” said Governing Board Chairman John Miklos of Orlando. “We are optimistic that this expanded structure will be in the best interest of the local governments and stakeholders along the lagoon.”
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency typically provides about $500,000 annually to the IRL NEP, which is a non-regulatory body. Additional funding — along with possible contributions from local governments in the lagoon region — would support activities such as lagoon research, education, protection and restoration efforts.
The District’s Governing Board today also authorized entering into an inter-local agreement that is being drafted with area stakeholders that will outline the new organization’s structure and path forward. The agreement is being drafted by existing IRL NEP Advisory Board members and volunteers serving on a recently-created “Design Team” for the IRL NEP.
The IRL NEP Advisory Board decided during summer 2014 to explore restructuring the organization to enhance community engagement and diversify its funding sources. The Advisory Board will discuss the draft inter-local agreement at its next meeting.
The Indian River Lagoon is a 156-mile-long diverse, shallow-water estuary stretching across 40 percent of Florida’s east coast from Ponce de Leon Inlet in Volusia County to the southern boundary of Martin County. The lagoon is a critical water body in the state and has experienced excess nutrient pollution in addition to excess freshwater flows for many decades. Widespread algal blooms appeared in the lagoon in 2011 followed by brown tide blooms in 2012 and 2013. Approximately 47,000 acres of seagrasses were lost, a reduction of about 60 percent of the lagoon’s total seagrass coverage.
Importance of pre-application coordination
District staff are available to review the details of proposed projects prior to submittal of a permit application. Pre-application coordination can include review of legal documents and detailed plans and designs, site visits, wetland impacts, mitigation plans and permitting criteria. Potential issues also can be discussed in a pre-application meeting, such as sovereign submerged lands approval, conservation and drainage easements, regional and local drainage issues, potential drawdown, and concerns of adjacent property owners.
Early coordination with District staff promotes a team approach and reduces the time that an application is under review. In addition, by using the District’s e-permitting tool, relevant documents to these discussions can be shared electronically. Additional permitting tips are available on the District’s website.