By Congressman Bill Posey
Bringing attention to the needs and concerns of the Indian River Lagoon is a priority for me, and that is why I have taken steps to establish a bipartisan Indian River Lagoon Congressional Caucus.
Brevard and Indian River counties are home to the Indian River Lagoon, one of the nation's most diverse estuaries. Our Lagoon greatly enhances our quality of life, is important for our economy and provides exciting recreational opportunities for those of us who live here, as well as tourists to our community. It also plays a vital role for indigenous and migratory wildlife. I chose to live and raise my family on the lagoon, and have enjoyed its many benefits throughout my life.
Key findings of a 2008 study commissioned by the St. John Water Management District found the lagoon's overall economic benefit to our communities to be significant - the overall estimated annual value of the lagoon is more than $3.5 billion, supporting approximately 15,000 jobs.
Recreational activities generate nearly $1.4 billion in economic activity and about $629 million a year in resident income.
A vibrant lagoon is a key contributor to property values and the local tax base; and, as such, it is important that we take steps to preserve its quality.
Along with helping our local economy, our lagoon also helps prevent coastal erosion, is vital to indigenous and migratory species of wildlife and provides an important habitat for a variety of marine plants and animals.
Since estuaries are places where fresh water mixes with salt water from the oceans, preserving this delicate balance can be challenging. Among the most pressing issues facing our lagoon include unusual algae blooms, significant loss of sea grass, fish kills and manatee, dolphin and pelican deaths.
A significant measure of the health of the lagoon is the sea grass coverage.
The recent algae blooms have had a significant adverse impact on lagoon sea grasses, contributing to the loss of more than half of the sea grass since the spring of 2011. It's important that we understand the myriad of contributing factors and take steps to reverse this loss.
In the U.S. Congress, I have actively supported reauthorization and funding for the National Estuary Program, which helps maintain nationally significant estuaries like the Indian River Lagoon.
This $16.8 million program provides a base grant of $600,000 to each of the 28 national estuaries around the country.
Funding goes to the St. Johns Water Management District to be used to support research focused on improving the lagoon's health, providing seed funding for restoration projects, planning and supporting research to better understand the various factors that are adversely impacting the lagoon.
Additionally, to better understand the cause of death for dolphins and manatees, I have supported efforts to restore funding for the Prescott Marine Mammal Rescue Assistance matching grant program.
Nationwide, the National Estuary Program has restored and protected more than 1.5 million acres since 2000. Restoration and protection projects often require local matching funding, which ensure local community support. The program is cost-effective, is driven by local conservation priorities, and decisions are made on the best science available.
There are steps everyone can take to improve the health of our lagoon. Please visit the following websites for steps you can take: http://www.sjrwmd.com/waterbodies/whatyoucando.html and http://www.sjrwmd.com/contactus/.
It's important to take common-sense steps to conserve and enhance our environment.
As your representative in Congress, I will continue to focus on local initiatives, like the lagoon program. And, I will continue to work with local elected officials to assist them and support the steps they take to improve our lagoon.
Congressman Bill Posey (FL-08), 120 Cannon House Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20515.
Phone: (202) 225-3671
Fax: (202) 225-3516