By Jessica Creagan
SEBASTIAN INLET -- The Sebastian Inlet straddles Indian River and Brevard counties and is a powerhouse of economic benefit on both sides of the county line, a report shows.
Beth Mitchell, chairwoman of the Sebastian Inlet District Commission, and Marty Smithson, administrator of the district, said the man-made inlet was recently evaluated for economic impact and the results easily exceeded $1 billion.
Proximity to the inlet alone is valued at $1.8 billion in property values over a 30-year period, Mr. Smithson said.
About 75 percent of people that use the inlet use it to fish, and many people do that with their own boats.
Mr. Smithson said there are 9,700 boats registered in the two counties and on a weekend there could be as many as 100 boats per hour passing through the inlet waters.
The annual expenditures that boaters have, such as for equipment, fuel and repairs is $4,308, which can be spent at local marine-related businesses.
There are 77 marine-related businesses in the area, including marinas, offshore charters, even restaurants, and the employee base is about 970 jobs.
A natural resource, the sea grass beds in the inlet, are also very valuable, Mr. Smithson said.
One acre of sea grass is valued at $5,000, making the 4,600 acres in the Sebastian Inlet around worth about $19.2 million annually.
Because of the inlet, local businesses, marine-related or not, generate about $93 million, Mr. Smithson said.
People coming to use the inlet account for about $8 million in local and state taxes, he said.
The Sebastian Inlet District Commission is always looking for ways to improve the inlet area to be the best it can be for the guests that visit, he said.
A web cam capturing images of the inlet is now back up and running on the district's website after the equipment was replaced. With a simple click of a button, potential visitors can check out the activity at the inlet and read up on the weather data and forecasts.
This winter, the district will deepen a sand trap in the middle of the lagoon as part of a routine maintenance plan.
"It's a return on the investment of the taxpayer," Mr. Smithson said.
For more information about the Sebastian Inlet District, visit www.sebastianinletdistrict.com.