Nestled between Florida’s east coast and a string of barrier islands, the Indian River Lagoon is a shallow estuary where salt water from the Atlantic Ocean blends with freshwater from the land and tributaries. 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.
Many partners are working together to improve their understanding of this special place — heralded as the most biologically diverse estuary in North America — and to develop and implement long-term management and protection solutions.
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 has operated with the guidance of an Advisory Board. In February 2015, the Advisory Board approved the formation of a new regional council to sponsor and carry out the goals of the IRLNEP. The new leadership anticipates more money for lagoon research and restoration projects than in the past. By Oct. 15, 2015, the Council will have at least $2 million from member entities.
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 both the existing Advisory Board and the new Council during this transitional phase.
All seven Council members have signed an interlocal agreement outlining their managerial and financial responsibilities.
During the spring and summer of 2015, the Council will meet to address various interim administrative tasks needed to establish and operate the organization. The transition is expected to be completed by Oct. 1, 2015.
Currently, meetings are held in the Blue Cypress Room of the St. Johns River Water Management District’s Palm Bay Service Center, 525 Community College Pkwy. S.E., Palm Bay, FL. Meeting dates are as follows:
March 27, 2015
April 17, 2015
May 1, 2015
May 15, 2015
June 5, 2015
July 10, 2015
Aug. 7, 2015
Sept. 11, 2015
Oct. 9, 2015
Nov. 13, 2015
Dec. 11, 2015
Contact Derek Busby for additional information about the IRLNEP at (386) 329-4459.
Until the recent creation of the IRL Council, the St. Johns River Water Management District has sponsored the IRLNEP. The St. Johns District oversees lagoon work in Volusia, Brevard and Indian River counties and the South Florida Water Management District oversees lagoon work in St. Lucie and Martin counties.
For more than 20 years, the St. Johns District has conducted lagoon restoration and protection work, including water quality improvements such as building stormwater treatment areas, reducing freshwater discharges to the lagoon, eliminating effluent discharges, dredging and removing muck from lagoon tributaries, reconnecting mosquito impoundments to the estuary, restoring dragline ditches to wetlands and providing support for a variety of community-based programs.
The District enhanced its lagoon work in 2013 by establishing the Indian River Lagoon Protection Initiative. Through that program, the District’s ongoing and enhanced work includes seagrass monitoring and planting, a four-year algal bloom investigation and installation of water quality monitors to provide real-time water quality data.
Maria Lombardo leads education and outreach activities for the Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program (IRLNEP) within the lagoon’s watershed. Contact her at:
IRLNEP Education Coordinator