Stockton Whitten, County Manager, stated the Space Coast Room, which is on the second floor, available for overflow; it has television monitors; and it is like sitting in the Board Room.
Chairman Barfield stated the County had the massive fish kill; and it is an indicator of what has happened over many years. He went on to add the Board looked at what it could do; he got with the County Attorney and said the County did not have the necessary funds to take care of this issue; and he asked the County Attorney what could be done. He stated he knew there could be a separate taxing authority; it has to be brought before the Board to be put on the ballot; and the voters make that decision. He advised after the County's legal staff looked into it, they found out the Board could do a half-cents sales tax; it has to go before the Board; and it has to be put on the ballot and voted for by the public. He pointed out a percentage of the cities have to approve it. He went on to say along with that, it is required that before the Board put anything on the ballot, it must have a detailed plan with costs, projects, and a plan over 10 years; along with that, the Board needs a clearly identified oversight committee, technical people who can oversee what the Board is proposing to do; there will be changes and new things come up; and all of those things have to be vetted, and the best place to do that is with an oversight committee, technically responsible people who understands this. He noted those changes would be brought to the Board, and it would have to approve those changes. He stated so far he has over 60 cards, but when a person gets up to speak, to please give the Board something new; but he asked everyone to try to keep it as distinct and short as possible.
Virginia Barker, Natural Resources Management Director, stated this plan was developed as a catalyst for mobilizing scientific financial and human resources to address the complex and rapidly changing challenges of the Indian River Lagoon in Brevard County; and the purpose is to restore Lagoon health, revitalize Lagoon-dependent economic vitality, and preserve the Lagoon's significant contributions to the quality of life. She went on to say as an outline for today, she is going to give a brief introduction, and there are a number of speakers here; staff is going to try to take everyone through this as quick as possible; but all of the bases need to be covered because of the importance of the Item. She stated she will introduce the other speakers as it comes their turn to speak, but they are talking about the economic importance of the Lagoon, the science-based targets they have set for the plan, the impacts and economic significance of muck in the Lagoon, data-driven project selection in this plan, and how they want to ensure transparency, accountability, and adaptability as staff proceeds with implementation, funding options, and acknowledgements of the many folks who have assisted the County in implementing the plan. She noted for the last five years staff has been managing crisis after crisis in the Lagoon starting with the 2011 algal super bloom, which was immediately followed by secondary bloom that took up most of the rest of the Brevard County portion of the Indian River, the 2012 and 2013 brown tides, those lead to unusual mortality events for Dolphins, Manatee, and wading birds, in 2014 they hoped things would turn around but that did not happen, and the winter of 2015 into 2016 the worst bloom the County ever had was experienced during a winter/spring time frame, which lead to the most extensive fish kill that they have ever had during the spring time of any year; during this time frame they have measured a loss of at least 60 percent of the sea grass beds in the Lagoon; and as a result of the March fish kill, the Board met in April and voted to send a letter to the Governor asking for his assistance. She went on to say the Governor sent multiple heads of his environmental agencies to meet with staff; and they discussed the problems of the Lagoon and potential solutions. She pointed out they were directed that they wanted to help but in order for them to assist, they did not just hand out money, a plan was needed, projects were needed, and then they could look at what they could assist the County with. She stated they also met with the Florida Legislative Delegation; they echoed those same sentiments; and they worked with federal permitting agencies to request faster permitting review, especially for muck removal projects. She noted those federal agencies are working towards expedited processing procedures for the County. She went on to add in May the Board directed staff to develop the project plan staff is presenting to the public today, and asked staff to also work on referendum options that have been developed by the County Attorney's Office. She stated in the first panel in the slide, on the left, is phosphorus inputs have been too great for the Lagoon; for the last five or six decades people have been putting too much nitrogen and phosphorus into the Lagoon; nitrogen and phosphorus alone are not necessarily pollution, they are the building blocks of life; nitrogen and phosphorus are naturally occurring elements and they break down from organic material along the lands, they have higher amounts of them in coastal areas, and it is part of that food that makes coastal areas and estuaries so abundant with life that supports the people; and the problem is not that there is nitrogen and phosphorus, it is there is too much of both. She went on to say initially the Lagoon was able to absorb the additional inputs of nitrogen and phosphorus, but after time it could not take anymore; and the excess nitrogen and phosphorus has accumulated in multiple different forms, but primarily it is now accumulated in muck deposits smothering the bottom of the Lagoon. She noted the muck is smothering the sea grass, it is using up oxygen supply, it is stirred up and shades the sea grass blocking light, and it causes many different problems. She advised the Board the first thing needed is to put the Lagoon on a healthy diet; the incoming load needs to be gotten down to healthy portions; the next thing to be done is to make up for the decades of obesity that has resulted from the over feeding; and that is what the muck removal is all about. She noted the natural filter feeders of the Lagoon need to be restored; oysters are called the liver of the river, because it restores the filtration capacity. She pointed out the entire Indian River Lagoon stretches along five counties; even though half of its length is in Brevard County, 71 percent of its surface area is in Brevard County; and it is over 157,000 acres. She provided the Board with a slide that shows black arrows to show the net transport of water and nutrients in and out of the Lagoon; there is net transport out of every single inlet; and the Board can see that inlet distribution is mainly towards the south end of the Lagoon. She stated those Lake Okeechobee discharges get out the southernmost inlets, and the water from Lake Okeechobee does not make it up to Brevard County; the net flow from Brevard County is to the south, either out Sebastian Inlet or into Indian River County; and what that means is the pollution in Brevard County was primarily put there by the people of the County. She noted that also means Brevard County can affect its own destiny; if Brevard County cleans up its act, no other county's pollution is going to undo its good deeds. She stated the Indian River Lagoon as an estuary requires a very delicate balance; it is an estuary of national significance; to the County locally, the river provides a wealth of cultural, recreational, commercial, aesthetic, and economic benefits; its diversity and abundance, the safe passage it has provide to boaters, has imprinted the history and continues to shape the community culture; the County needs to handle more extreme weather; the system needs to be healthy and strong, not fragile; the County has one of the greatest diversity of plants and animals in the nation because the County is on the ecotone boundary between temperate America ad sub-tropical South Florida; and all of those creatures intermingle and intermix in the County's estuary. She stated that balance has been disturbed by excessive pollutant inputs to the Lagoon that have accumulated in harmful muck deposits and are exaggerated by the loss of natural filtration systems. She stated for planned development staff wants to address the remaining major sources of pollution and get down to a sustainable diet; they want to achieve that a minimal cost; they want to achieve regulatory compliance and healthy conditions; they want to maximize the benefits of the Lagoon to the community; and they want science and data to drive that decision process to minimize the future risks, optimize the return on investment, and allow for innovation and adaptation moving forward. She went on to add sustainable funding will encourage individuals, businesses, and organizations to participate along the way. She stated she wants to turn it over to Al Vazquez to present the economic importance of the Indian River Lagoon; Al Vazquez is Managing Partner of Closewaters LLC; he received a Bachelor’s of Science from California Institute of Technology, MBA from the Harvard Graduate School of Business, he has been a Management Consultant for over 20 years to Fortune 500 Clients and Governments, and his specialties are performance improvement, management of rapid change, and return on investment; his personal clients include IBM, Johnson and Johnson, Nabisco, Baxter Healthcare, Sumitomo, Marubeni, and Cargo; and his government clients include the Natural Resources Department of Canada, the National Forestry Commission of Mexico, the Florida Department of Revenue, and now finally Brevard County, his home for 28 years.
Al Vazquez stated he is going to review the economic aspects of the Plan, looking at impacts both good and bad. He went on to say the economic model he is going to review today was vetted outside of the project team, the Budget Director and Assistant Budget Director for Brevard County and Dr. Michael Slotkin of the School of Business of Florida Institute of Technology (FIT), because they wanted others to ensure the analysis was valid; on the beneficial side, if the Lagoon is restored, it would be a beneficial $2 billion impact on the County; and by County, he does not necessarily mean $2 billion of taxes flowing into the County coffers, it is $2 billion that would accrue to the residents of Brevard County. He pointed out the way the model was developed was they consulted with literally hundreds of subject matter experts in these various areas in tourism, property value, and fishing, and they asked them to assess the impact of restoring the Lagoon and also what would happen if the Lagoon was not restored; and they took those impact assessments and applied them against the most current numbers they could find for values in each of those areas. He stated looking at the annual benefits, there were three categories they quantified, the impact they were able to quantify, the impact on tourism and recreation, so that is both people visiting the area as well as recreation by the residents; that had an impact of $95 million a year if the Lagoon was restored; the impact on property value, which makes sense, this assessment was done with the Space Coast Association of Realtors, they had a survey responded by 171 realtors that were familiar with the market in Brevard County; they gauged they could increase property values over a five-year period by $81 million in annualized benefit; and finally experts in commercial fishing with a long history of commercial in the County, which is not in good shape right now, felt that over about a 10-year period, if the Lagoon were restored, they would be able to restore commercial fishing. He went on to add commercial fishing is important, not so much because of the livelihoods and the $15 million, but commercial fishing that is part of the brand that is the Indian River Lagoon and Brevard County; if they were able to restore the ability of restaurants and markets to sell the fresh fish and shellfish, that would have a leveraged impact on tourism, which would be beneficial; and those annualized benefits, in order to compare them to the $302 million cost of the Plan, they developed something called present value which summarized and discounted those back to present day. He noted when they do that, taking into account $95 million for a period of time, $81 million for a period of time, and $15 million for a period of time, they came up with the present value of that future stream of benefits; tourism, recreation, and property value is just under a billion dollars of present value; commercial fishing would be worth about $159 million worth of present value; and the total of those is the $2 billion of present value of benefit that compares directly to a $302 billion number. He noted they were not able to comfortably quantify certain things like the benefits of having a healthy Lagoon where people could swim and recreate without having to worry about pathogens; and they also did not include any collateral, beneficial impacts on the brand that is Brevard County and the Indian River Lagoon. He stated there are no benefits in here that would flow over to any beach tourism at all, so those numbers are not included in these numbers. He went on to state if they in fact fail to restore the Indian River Lagoon, these are impacts that would occur, they modeled it at five years from now for tourism and recreation, but only two years out basically for the end of commercial fishing in Brevard County; the annualized loss numbers are tourism associated with the Indian River Lagoon, this is not talking about any impact on beach tourism; and the reason he says that is they have all read what is happening in Martin County. He went on to say he has been on the telephone talking with the Department of Tourism for Martin County a lot; they are going through a lot; their beach tourism was seriously impacted by what happened with their algae blooms in the Indian River Lagoon; and aside from that, even land-based tourism has been impacted. He stated that is not included in these numbers. He added the numbers that are not included, if the Indian River Lagoon is not restored, are the regulatory fines by Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) or Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for non-compliance, and the risk of a pathogen outbreak. He stated they did a lot of research on pathogen outbreaks as a result of Harmful Algal Blooms (HAB), and the fact there is an acronym for that is disturbing, because the EPA said HAB are a major environmental problem in all 50 states right now; and this is not something the County is going through alone. He noted some of the possibilities of pathogen impacts on people and algal toxins that could impact people, accidentally swallowing or swimming in water affected by a HAB can cause serious health problems including rashes, stomach or liver illness, respiratory problems, and neurological effects; those impacts are not quantified in this model; and they contacted everyone from the CDC to the health department and found no way of quantifying those as a dollar number, but he wanted to make sure everyone was aware of that as a possibility. He pointed out taking the annual losses projected, five or two years out, the expected present value of these impacts would be a potential loss of some $4.3 billion in present value. He stated the entire team worked hard in maximizing the return on investment; the $6.3 billion benefit, with the $2 billion upside and the $4.3 billion loss avoidance benefit, is a substantial number; the plan cost $302 million is the projection that has been developed; dividing those numbers, apples to apples, it is a 20 to one benefit cost ratio; and in all of his years of consulting with companies that is making a lot of money, his commercial clients and business entities, he has never seen a benefit to cost ratio that good. He noted this is a beneficial project for the County. He went on to add the other thing to note is that every year that they delay, and these impacts would probably hit two to five years out, every year delayed after that is very costly, because what is happening is what they are basically delaying is a $6.3 billion, or at least the $2 billion gain to the County, every year they delay; the overall annual impact, by looking at the annual benefits both on the upside and the downside, is $526 million a year; and the point is that time is money, and the plan should be implemented as soon as possible. He stated for a number of reasons the plan is structured as a two-year plan; if the plan can be executed and implemented in five years instead of 10 years, it more than doubles the return of investment from a 10 percent return to a 26 percent return investment; and every year they can accelerate it less than five years would be more substantial. He pointed out the County would need, and he sent a memorandum to the Director of Natural Resources Management, some structural and systematic changes to be able to execute the plan in less than 10 years; but it is a possibility, and the motivator is $526 million a year in benefits. He went on to add the other question is regarding where the money comes from; he does not think anyone in the room wants to pay more taxes; by looking at the discretionary part of the County Budget, which is called the General Fund Budget, it is about $220 million; some of the items in that discretionary part of the Budget are Parks and Recreation for $12 million, Central Services for $8 million, General Government Services for $4.8 million, Housing and Human Services for $2.5 million, Information Technology, Transit, County Attorney's Office, County Manager's Office, Human Resources, Budget Office, and these are all on the order of one-half a million or less, Natural Resources is $355,000 of the annual Budget, Planning and Development, and these are all critical parts of County government; and not only are they critical, but even if all of them could be eliminated, it is not enough money to fund the plan. He pointed out in his view from someone who has done a lot of economic analysis, there is no way the County can fund $302 million from the current Budget by any stretch of the imagination. He stated this has to be new funding; one good benefit of new funding is that if the County is able to fund $302 million plan, it would be able to leverage matching funds from other organizations, which will come from the taxes ultimately; but it will allow to improve on the bare bones plan; and the $302 million was just designed to reach regulatory compliance to reduce nutrient levels to the point where it would be beneficial to the Lagoon and where it will be compliant with FDEP and EPA levels of nutrients in the Lagoon. He stated if the County can exceed that level and reduce nutrients more, it increases the likelihood it will be successful and it will have a Lagoon that is relatively free of the large algal blooms and other impacts that have been seen. He advised the Board they used a discipline called decision science to drive the sequence of projects and to select projects in the Lagoon; and he will let Ms. Barker and the Water Engineer talk about this further. He noted the last slide he has is he sat down with a lot of the scientists that have a great deal of experience and science associated with the Lagoon, and he asked them to measure or make a subjective assessment of what they thought the odds were that there would be a healthy Lagoon at various levels of nutrient reduction; because it was not science, most of them felt somewhat uncomfortable but fortunately they did it; and the result was this understanding of how the Lagoon is probably going to behave. He stated the vertical access represents how healthy the Lagoon is; is it going to have more algal blooms or fish kills; there will be a few smaller ones; there is a critical point of nutrient reduction that this plan is designed to achieve; and they have to achieve that point of nutrient reduction in order to get any significant benefits at all. He went on to say anything less than $302 million is very likely to not be beneficial and it would be a waste of money; it is important to get to that point; and this bare bones plan does get to that point. He stated if matching funds could be gotten from the federal or State government or from private grants and increase the number of projects done, it moves up the curve and it increases the chance there will be a healthy Lagoon.
Ms. Barker stated she wants to go quickly through the science-based targets for the Lagoon, the metrics they are using for targeting their success; it is impossible to over emphasize the importance of sea grass to the Indian River Lagoon; the important of that under water rain forest to provide food, shelter, and nursery to the incredible diversity and abundance of critters in the Lagoon; in order to set that sea grass metric, how much sea grass is enough; and they looked at all of the data collected and analyzed by the Water Management District, all of the mapping of sea grass over the decades, and staff picked the highest four years, and took the average of those best four years; and it exceeds the sea grass that was mapped in 1943. She pointed out that is the target for sea grass. She stated if the County reduces nutrient pollution enough to achieve that sea grass target, it will at the same time achieve much improved water clarity; algal blooms should be rare, fish kills should be even rarer, the bottom should be visible, dissolved oxygen levels should be sufficient that fish kills are very uncommon, and when they look through the water and can see the bottom it should be clean, white, sandy sediment. She stated muck would be limited to a few deep pits and purposefully located sumps to collect that material and the future.
Chairman Barfield inquired if Ms. Barker is saying that is basically the vision of the Indian River Lagoon.
Ms. Barker replied affirmatively. She went on to say they want the entire volume of the Lagoon to be filtered at least annually by restored filter feeders. She stated the County partnered with all of the cities in Brevard County five years ago to study what the sources of nitrogen phosphorus pollution, where they were coming from, and what could be done about it; the pie charts are sources of phosphorus; the purple at the top accounts for one or two percent of the nitrogen and phosphorus in the Lagoon; that is point sources; and that is what is discharged from industrial facilities and wastewater treatment facilities. She went on to say in the 80s, there were over 40 different direct discharges of pollution to the Lagoon; they realized that was not sustainable; they passed a $90 million bond in the 80s to take those water treatment plants offline, and to process that water and use it for reuse, irrigation, and other useful purposes; and the majority of those pollutants are no longer discharged to the Lagoon. She stated in many estuaries around the country, when there is a water quality problem they look at the point sources, and clean them up. She noted the Lagoon is especially fragile, it requires more effort than other places. She stated 30 years later after disconnecting those direct discharges, there is an aging infrastructure; the Board recognized that, and in 2013, it passed another bond issue to address the aging infrastructure; and for several years now, the County's Utility Department has worked on replacing that aging infrastructure to reduce that risk of failure. She stated there is a $134 million bond effort underway; the projects are itemized in this year's approved budget, and next year's proposed budget; and that work is underway, is not a part of this plan, but is an important part of the discussion today. She stated the blue part of the pie is the pollution that is reaching the Lagoon through stormwater runoff; the County knows it needs to do more stormwater treatment; the red section is something the County learned in the last few years, and that is nitrogen and phosphorus pollution that is delivered to the Lagoon through groundwater base flow; and in order to make it more livable, it was ditched and drained. She pointed out those ditches were purposely cut below the water table; they are constantly draining groundwater from the land, and exporting it to the Lagoon; and unfortunately, the groundwater is polluted. She noted the last piece of the puzzle is atmospheric deposition; all of the things that are done to make people comfortable, such as vehicles and air conditioning in people's homes, creates air pollution and part of that rains back down and onto the Indian River Lagoon. She pointed out the good news on atmospheric deposition is that is regulated by the federal government; the new 2020 standards are reducing that pollution; and in the last 10 or 15 years, the County has seen a 10 percent decline in the amount of nitrogen pollution falling onto the Lagoon from the sky. She stated about two years ago, the Florida Legislature funded Brevard County to work with Florida Institute of Technology (FIT) on the impacts of muck on the Lagoon and on understanding the economic benefits of removing muck from the system; staff knew muck was bad because it was smothering the seagrass; what was not understood until this study was the extent that as muck decays, it releases nitrogen and phosphorus that dissolves and gets taken back up into the water column above and feed algae blooms; and when looking at the scale of the nutrient flux as muck degrades, and compared to that to all the external loads, muck is the biggest single contributing factor of nitrogen and phosphorus into the water column. She stated what is polluting the stormwater and groundwater are multiple sources, fertilizer, and the effort taken to take the point sources and disconnect them from the Lagoon and use the water for irrigation, the County cleans that water and makes it safe for humans, but all of the nutrients are not all scrubbed out; by pushing all of those nutrients out to the irrigation lines, it is sprayed all over people's yards; and that is having an impact that can be addressed. She stated one of the things about septic tanks is they have these human health concerns; the most expensive project type recommended in the plan are septic retrofits, septic hookups; but there is an extra benefit that by addressing the septic tanks, the County is also addressing the pathogens, viruses, human health concerns, hormone disrupters, and that is the additional benefits. She provided a graft to show the public the many projects built with the stormwater fees over the past several decades, and the progress that has been made; she stated it simply is not enough to get the Lagoon onto a sustainable diet it needs; and it certainly does not address the decades of accumulated excess nutrients in the muck. She pointed out the project plan is organized around four subject areas, reducing the pollution down to a sustainable diet, reducing the primary sources of pollution, excess fertilizer, poorly sited or maintained septic systems, highly concentrated reclaimed water, and untreated stormwater; then there is the remove buck, to remove the historical pollution that has accumulated in muck that smothers seagrass, clouds the water, and releases nutrients, and consumes oxygen; to restore the natural stabilization and filtration systems of the Lagoon; and to respond to measure the progress. She stated she is going to hand this over to Dr. John Windsor to talk about the impacts of environmental muck dredging; and Dr. Windsor was born in Chester, Pennsylvania 69 years ago, grew up along the Delaware River, he has a BS from Chemistry from Widner University, MA and PhD in Marine Sciences from William and Mary, he did his post doc at MIT, he is a support services contractor for US UPA RPT and NC, he is a professor and program chair of Oceanography and Environmental Sciences at Florida Institute of Technology (FIT), and he served as the first Chair of the Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Technical Advisory Committee for 20 plus years.
Dr. John Windsor stated he grew up in an environment that was pretty nasty; the Delaware River was awful; he tried to get a job when he got out of college dealing with water quality issues; and every single company along the Delaware River said to him in a negative response that they did not need to hire anyone like that because they did not have any problems. He went on to say he thinks about people who deny they create or contribute to a problem. He stated he has been at FIT for over 20 years; he is officially retired now; his first week of retirement he spent getting ready for this meeting; and he expressed his appreciation to the Board for allowing him to spend his retirement with it. He stated redundancy works better in the classroom than showing something one time; there were a couple of things that jumped out at him from a slide that Ms. Barker showed; Dan Billows came to his office about 30 years ago asking him what one of the biggest problems of the Indian River Lagoon was; and he said too many nutrients. He stated there are too many nutrients getting to the Lagoon; this is a consensus opinion that was developed over many years; and from a management perspective, they need to figure out where to get the biggest bang for the buck in controlling the sources going to the Lagoon. He noted Ms. Barker mentioned the nitrogen contributions to the Lagoon were almost 40 percent for muck and phosphorus a little over 40 percent; it is over 600 tons of nitrogen a year from the muck; and the muck came from the residents of the County. He advised the Board the Indian River Lagoon muck is not the same as in the Great Lakes, it is way different; of the dried material that is left is mostly silt and clay; and silt and clay comes in large part from the land management practices being used in the past. He stated when a person sods their yard, when it comes there is soil that runs off; they used to clear cut large areas of the County in preparation of large housing developments going up; and the first storm that came along, massive quantities of materials moved down stream. He pointed out there is not much sand in the muck, but it is mostly silt and clay. He went on to add there is organic carbon associated with the organic matter, and there is organic nitrogen in that as well; most of the organic nitrogen in the muck is in the form of ammonia; and it is dissolved in the water. He stated a muck core is where a tube is set in the bottom sediments; they put a rubber stopped in the top of the tube; they pull the tube out; and just by vacuuming the tube, there is a chunk of sediment. He provided a picture of a core of muck from the Indian River Lagoon. He noted what happened to change the sediments over the years is population growth; it went from around 20,000 to over one-half a million; and in 1950 for every one person there, there are 20 more people now. He stated it increases the tributary in the Lagoon; if a person has moved their hand over the muck, or watched a boat after it moves over a mucky area, the muck moves very quickly and creates cloudiness in the water; the sun does not get through; and if the plants do not grow well, a lot of bad things happen. He pointed out it depletes oxygen in the water column; bacteria lives in the muck; and the stuff they put out that is left behind, finds its way into the water; and it can consume the oxygen in the water. He went on to say if the muck is removed it should decrease turbidity, sea grass growth should be enhanced, oxygen conditions should improve, it should restore the natural bottom, and all of those things are things that need to be achieved, but it is no longer a source for nutrients. He noted removal of muck is kind of like liposuction. He added something that has not been discussed and is a great concern to him is where they have repositories of muck right now they are fairly confined, and it can be cleaned up; if there is another year like 2004 and 2005 with the hurricanes, there will be a lot of redistribution of muck; and it can easily be moved and cover other areas that were not impacted by muck before. He stated it is a ticking time bomb; and removing the muck is important. He advised muck removal has been part of a management strategy for a while; when he came to FIT in the 1980s, he worked with the Florida Tech's Speakers Bureau, and he had faculty that talked about research work they did; down in the corner of page 10, it states to remove the muck out of the Indian River Lagoon; and since then those muck targets for management include the Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program their Conservation and Management Program, the Surface Water Improvement Management Program, and even in the County the Brevard County Comprehensive Master Plan, DMP3, and all of these plans have been driven by public input, listening groups, oversight public vetting of the projects, and they are on the books as being recommended. He noted muck dredging is to vacuum the bottom of the Lagoon floor, kind of like picking up dust with a vacuum cleaner; and the water and muck are pumped off to a holding facility for treatment. He stated there has been a lot of discussion of how much money has been spent in the plan on dredging, and dredging should not be done, to just focus on upstream inputs; the current hydraulic dredging practices are not perfect but they are a really good place to start; and something like a dedicated funding source could be generated for supporting these projects in the future. He stated this group at FIT that is working on environmental muck dredging research was given money by the Legislature through Brevard County to focus on that goal to determine the impacts of environmental muck dredging in the Indian River Lagoon; they are not finished with the first dredging project yet; and there are 10 facility, six research staff, and dozens of graduates and under graduates students collaborating with County staff, the Water Management District, FDEP, and they even have external reviewers checking their steps along the way. He stated the more biodiversity in the Lagoon, the more ecologically valuable it is, but the most economical valuable that is. He stated people maybe be asking what is muck flux; he showed billions of molecules of nitrogen and phosphorus in the muck; they are coming from the decomposition of the organic matter in the muck; and as that decomposition occurs, more and more nitrogen compounds, mostly ammonia, and more and more phosphorus compounds are dissolving into the water, concentrations are increasing, and when the concentrations increase in the muck, and they are low in the underlying water, the physical processes that take place cause those molecules to move from a higher concentration area to the lower concentration areas. He pointed out that process is called diffusion and also called flux. He stated there is a lot of other work being done that includes looking at upstream inputs, trying to stop upstream inputs, and what role septic tanks play versus other sources for nutrients in the Lagoon.
Ms. Barker introduced Marcie Frick, Senior Water Resources Engineer with Tetra Tech’s Water Resources Group in Tallahassee; she has more than 13 years of environmental science, natural resource planning, committee facilitation, water resource management, water and wastewater infrastructure planning experience; she has supported the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) implementation throughout Florida, including the development of Base and Management Action Plans for the Indian River Lagoon; and she has been a very familiar face to the community for multiple years.
Marcie Frick stated as both Ms. Barker and Mr. Vazquez mentioned they tried to be very smart in selecting projects; they wanted to maximum those nutrient reductions to achieve the water quality targets; and at the same time, they wanted to make sure those were the most cost-effective projects so the costs could be minimized and the dollars raised. She went on to say they organized the projects to implement those that could have a quick benefit to the Lagoon so the lag time could be shortened between the nutrient reductions and the response in the Lagoon itself; and they did their best to reduce the risk of implementing such a large scale restoration plan while optimizing the return on investment. She pointed out the first type of project they tackled were those external sources for the Lagoon, and they are looking at reducing those to continue the analogy, the diet they are putting the Lagoon on; the first external source they looked at was excess fertilizer; these are billboards and ads the Board is most likely familiar with; there has been an ongoing education campaign by the County and its partners to raise awareness of what the excess fertilizer is doing to the Lagoon system, and to education the people about the Fertilizer Ordinance in the County; and the Ordinance does require that there is zero phosphorus in the fertilizer, and that at least 50 percent of it is slow release nitrogen, as well as a summer ban. She added they were looking at data from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services; they track fertilizers by county; while it is important to note that not all of the fertilizer sold within the County stays within the County, it is kind of the best estimate of what is being used within Brevard County; they looked at the total nitrogen and phosphorus sold within Brevard County and compared it to the period before the Ordinance was adopted and after the Ordinance was adopted to see what impact the public education campaigns to date have had; and they also applied a attenuation factor, because the fertilizer being applied is being taken up by plants, so all of the fertilizer has that potential to leach into the groundwater and contribute to loads into the Lagoon. She went on by saying the numbers in the table show the excess fertilizer beyond what is being taken up by the plants; the first column for FY 2013/2014, shows what was being sold in the County before the Ordinance was adopted; and the second column with the FY 2014/2015 shows what occurred after. She noted what can be seen is reductions to date from the education campaign is almost 46,000 pounds of nitrogen, and a little over 9,000 pounds of prosperous; as part of the plan they wanted to continue the campaign and build upon it, to continue to educate the public about the Ordinance, to make people aware of what fertilizers are compliant with the Ordinance that promote the slow release nitrogen, as well as make them aware that if a person is re-irrigating their lawns with reclaimed water, as they already have nutrients, he or she does not need to fertilize as much. She stated the goal through the education campaign is to increase the compliance with the Ordinance by another 25 percent by implementing the campaign over a five-year period; and based on this, they estimate another 6,000 pounds of nitrogen and 800 pounds of phosphorus can be eliminated. She stated this was found to be a cost-effective project; it costs about $100 per pounds of nitrogen removed and a little over $700 per pound of phosphorus removed. She went on to say another source she just mentioned was excess nutrients in reclaimed water; as Ms. Barker discussed, historically there were more than 40 wastewater discharges directly to the Lagoon; and taking those discharges out and making them into a water source for the County is a great way to handle that discharge. She added while there are limits for pathogens and metals that are put into reclaimed water, there is not a limit for nutrients; in doing research they found that the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Science recommends that nine milligrams per liter is the ideal amount of nitrogen for maximum turf grass growth, assuming a person is not over-irrigating; and the red line shows that. She advised for all of the facilitates except for the first one, they were targeting a six milligrams per liter of nitrogen, the first facility, the City of Palm Bay, they already had a design in place for a facility that would achieve seven and one-half milligrams, so that one is not quite as low; they sorted from the most cost-effective to the least cost-effective based on the cost per pound of nitrogen removed; and the green highlighting shows the ones that are the most cost effective. She stated another source of external loading to the Lagoon is septic systems; they have information from the Florida Department of Health that there is an estimating 70,000 septic systems within the County; when staff went through that file along with staffs from the cities, they found about 10 percent of these septic tanks have already been connected; that leaves about 60,000 septic systems within the County that are on the IRL site of the great divide that go to the Indian River Lagoon and not to the St. Johns River; and while it would be ideal to take care of every single one of those, there is a cost, and upgrading all 60,000 septic systems is not the most cost effective. She stated each septic system on average can contribute 27 pounds per year to the Lagoon. She stated in determining which ones they actually wanted to connect to the sewer system, they looked at various neighborhoods throughout the County that had infrastructure that could make it a relatively short-term project to extend the sewer lines and connect some systems; in this case, they looked at all of the lots in the neighborhood; they did find that in order to be most cost-effective, at least 50 percent or more had to be within the 55 yards or 165 feet of a major water body; and the estimated cost to connect to the sewer system is about $20,000 per lot. She continued by saying everything on the slide outlined in black is a neighborhood they evaluated for connection, and those outlined in green are the most cost-effective and are recommended as part of the plan; by connecting these systems to the sewer system, they can remove about four percent of the existing septic systems that drain to the Indian River Lagoon; that is about 2,300 lots; and approximately 50,000 pounds of nitrogen at an average cost of $840 can be reduced. She stated for those areas that were not most cost effective to connect, they did have some septic systems they were concerned about and they were looking at upgrading them so they got greater nutrient removal, and in order to do that County staff used a series of criteria; they looked at the age of the system, the type of soil in the area, the depth to groundwater, the septic system density, and the proximity to surface waters; and these criteria were used to identify those that had the worst conditions and could have the biggest impact on the Lagoon. She noted the wastewater is funneled from the house to a septic tank, and then it leaves the septic tank and goes to a drain field for treatment; what they are proposing to do with the upgrades is to add another treatment, an additional filter, using what is known as bio-absorptive activated media that help increase the nutrient removal; and it is mostly for nitrogen because phosphorus does not travel quite as far. She stated when looking at this they found about 2.3 percent of the septic systems that they are not proposing to connect hide really the worst; they are proposing to upgrade them as part of the plan; there are about 1,400 of these lots; and the cost to upgrade is about $16,000 depending on what technology is used. She pointed out sea grass growth is the largest from January to May, which is also the driest period. She stated the County has divided the whole area into about 2,500 stormwater basins, and they prioritized those based upon those with the highest base loads, because they were trying to target that peak sea grass growing season; and that is how they came up with the number of basins needed to be treated in each area. She noted the estimated project costs vary depending upon the size of the basin; these are also very cost-effective on average, at only $88 per pound of nitrogen removed and $612 per pound of phosphorus removed; and they are estimating they can remove over 118,000 pounds of nitrogen and 17,000 pounds of phosphorus with these projects. She advised the areas are spread out throughout the Lagoon system. She stated once the Lagoon has been put on the diet, with the proposed projects with the plan, they can shrink the nutrient input by about 25 percent. She stated the next step after putting the Lagoon on the diet is the liposuction phase of the project, which is muck; the maps highlight the areas with the deepest muck deposits within the Lagoon; the plan is to remove the deep pockets of muck, not from every single canal and ditch; and they want to focus on the excess nutrient loading that has built up in the Lagoon over time. She pointed out the locations vary from the Mosquito Lagoon to the south of the County; this is the only project component that has a project in the Mosquito Lagoon; Brevard County does not have any stormwater outfalls in that region; but there are muck pockets to be tackled. She stated it will cost about $400 per pound of nitrogen removed by dredging that muck. She stated oysters are the liver of the river; they have gotten questions if now is the time to start restoring the oysters knowing the Lagoon itself is not quite healthy; the map shows the oyster gardening program; and there are already more than 900 areas in the Lagoon where oysters are thriving. She went on to say the goal is create oyster bar living shorelines; the goal of the oyster bars is not to restore every historical oyster reef, but really to provide the filtration, give it more shoreline stabilization, and to meet the goal of trying to filter the volume of the Lagoon water annually. She noted they are estimating in order to filter the Lagoon annually, they would need about 20 miles of oyster bars, which would be about six feet wide, and it would cost about $10 million; by doing this, they can achieve about 21,000 pounds of nitrogen removal and a little more than 7,000 pounds of TP reductions; and the best information they could find was from Chesapeake Bay, but they are expecting better results due to the warmer water, in the Lagoon. She pointed out it would cost about $85 million to reduce the nutrient inputs and put the Lagoon on a diet, $198 million for the liposuction, then $10 million to restore the liver functions through the oysters, and throughout that they want to dedicate about $10 million of project funding to help measure progress, benefits, and adapt as needed to make it the most cost-effective plan. She stated they have developed a proposal for a citizen oversight committee; the purpose of the committee is to make sure the process is transparent and being evaluated on a regular basis; and to be able to adjust if something is not as cost-effective as they thought it was. She went on to add they want to form a volunteer citizen oversight committee called the Steam Team; there are seven categories of volunteers they would be looking for; and from this they would have a committee of seven members to represent those items as well as seven alternates. She stated the League of Cities will nominate half of the Steam Team, and the Board will nominate the other half; and volunteers would submit applications to be part of the team. She went on to say people that will then be appointed to the team who are selected will serve a two-year term to help guide the plan, receive updates on the new data of the new technologies, and provide feedback on how the plan should be updated annually. She summarized by saying this is about a $302 million plan, and from that they can reduce almost 762,000 pounds of nitrogen and almost 99,000 pounds of phosphorus; they have selected the most cost effective options to achieve these; the wastewater upgrades can be done fairly quickly, so those are staged first; the City of Palm Bay project can be done in a year; and the City of Titusville one, which is what they are proposing they are planning on three years to give some time to design, bid, and construct. She noted they will continue the fertilizer management and education outreach campaign, they are proposing for a five-year period; both the stormwater treatment projects, as well as converting the septic systems to the sewer systems will take about eight years; upgrading the septic system, removing the muck, and restoring the oysters will be about a 10-year period; and then throughout the 10-year proposed period they want to continue to monitor, measure, and gather additional data.
Ms. Barker stated they talked about the plan, and now she will talk about how to fund it. She advised the Board dedicated funding will allow smart planning and smart permitting, it will allow coordination of bidding of projects so better prices may be obtained, it will allow to spend less funding on mobilizing and demobilizing, and the benefits of economies of scale can be gotten; and they also want dedicated funds to help drive innovation so better opportunities can be come up with going forward. She stated there are a number of funding options that would provide a dedicated source of funds, specifically for funding this plan; all of these will be voter-approved and be put on the ballot in November; and they will be Countywide. She stated the first one will be an Ad Valorem levy on property taxes through Countywide Save Our Lagoon special taxing district; the levy will be one mill, which means $1 per $1,000 of taxable value on a person's home; it would sunset in 10 years; and they expect the revenue generation to be $32 million per year, which would be $320 million that would roughly fund this $2 million plan. She added grants obviously can accelerate the schedule; and the faster the projects can be built, the better the rate of return on investment. She advised Option 2 is similar to Option 1; voter-approved Ad Valorem levy Countywide special taxing district; but the tax rate would be a half mill, which means .50 cents per $1,000 of taxable value on a person's home; because only half is being collected, there would be a 20-year period, and 20-year sunset; and $16 million a year for 20 years gets to the same $320 million. She went on to explain there could be grants, and to the point of being successful in using local funds to leverage additional funds the schedule and benefits could be accelerated. She stated Option 3, also voter-approved Ad Valorem levy at half a mill, but sunsetting that at 10 years, and betting on the fact those dollars can be leveraged for additional Legislative appropriations and grants; Option 4 is different, it is voter-approved, it would also go on the November ballot, but it would be a half-cent sales tax; it would sunset in 10 years; and the revenue collections would be anticipated at $34 million per year, and in 10 years $340 million would be generated to fund the plan. She stated the sales tax is collected by the State of Florida and distributed back out to counties and cities based on population. She stated a lot of this plan is for muck removal, that is not necessarily in a city; when the plan was developed, they pretended like there were no city or county jurisdictional boundaries, it was all about finding the best projects, best bang for the buck, and how quickly the Lagoon could be restored. She noted the proposal would be to negotiate with the cities that the share that would normally come to them from a sales tax would instead go into this Save the Lagoon special fund, and would be spend specifically for implementing this plan. She stated as always, there is another option, which is to listen to the public, hearing their ideas, the Board may have ideas, and other options are always on the table. She acknowledged the incredible team she has gotten to work with, the many subject matter experts throughout the community, the many different agencies they have worked with, the city staffs who have worked to put this together, and most importantly her Natural Resources Management staff who have worked weekends and evenings. She advised the Board there are a number of experts available if it has any questions. She stated she wants to leave with a vision of success for a healthy Lagoon, based on a fiscally responsible plan that is science-based and data-driven, and responsive to a public with transparent citizen oversight.
Stockton Whitten, County Manager, expressed his appreciation to the Board for allowing Ms. Barker and the experts to go through that presentation, which was an extended presentation, but it is necessary to show that the plan is a comprehensive plan based in science; it is a collaborative plan, and it is developed by experts with a thought of citizen oversight; Ms. Barker gave her staff credit, the experts, and the consultants, but she was clearly the leader in bringing this together. He stated the Natural Resources Director has 26 years of experience in environmental management, they are both from Jacksonville, Florida, and he got the privilege of going to the University of Florida; since she could not get in, she settled for Duke University; she has an undergraduate degree in Science, Math, and Biology from Duke University, and a Master of Environmental Management; and this is actually her area of expertise.
Commissioner Fisher stated he is impressed with the fact everyone having their hands on this, it was not just one person; and he expressed his appreciation to all involved.
Chairman Barfield stated what amazes him is most of these resources are right here in the community; and obviously by looking at the number of people here, it is a big issue.