The Indian River Lagoon is a shallow estuary where salt water from the Atlantic Ocean blends with freshwater from the land and tributaries. The lagoon is nestled between Florida’s east coast and a string of barrier islands. The 156-mile-long waterway — stretching from Ponce de Leon Inlet in Volusia County, south to the southern boundary of Martin County — is home to a rich array of plants and animals and is heralded as the most biologically diverse estuary in North America.
The Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program (IRLNEP)
The Indian River lagoon National Estuary Program (IRLNEP) is managed by the IRL Council, which is a special district of Florida that was established in 2015.
The IRL Council includes representatives of four counties bordering the lagoon, which are Brevard, Volusia, St. Lucie and Martin counties, and the St. Johns River and South Florida water management districts, and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). EPA provides guidance to the Council.
All seven Council members have signed an interlocal agreement outlining their managerial and financial responsibilities.
Congress established the National Estuary Program (NEP) in 1987 to protect and restore the water quality and ecological integrity of estuaries of national significance.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administers the NEP. Decisions are made locally, and each NEP is composed of representatives from federal, state and local government agencies, local residents, business leaders, educators and researchers.
The Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program (IRLNEP) was established in 1990 and operated with the guidance of an advisory board through February 2015, when the advisory board approved the formation of a new regional council to sponsor and carry out the goals of the IRLNEP.
Prior to fall 2015, the St. Johns River Water Management District sponsored the IRLNEP, the St. Johns District overseeing lagoon work in Volusia, Brevard and Indian River counties and the South Florida Water Management District overseeing lagoon work in St. Lucie and Martin counties.