DEP, SJRWMD Tour Northern IRL to Determine Placement of Real-Time Monitoring Devices

sta This week, Florida Department of Environmental Protection Deputy Secretary Drew Bartlett and other Department water quality restoration program staff joined St. Johns River Water Management District Executive Director Hans Tanzler and staff as well as the Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program and the Indian River Lagoon Aquatic Preserves for a tour of the northern lagoon to view areas of concern in the basin and discuss potential solutions and project ideas.

 One particular area of focus was the discussion of the deployment of real-time monitors in the basin. The Department will be investing $1.7 million statewide in the equipment and partnering with the water management districts to manage the monitors, once installed. The Indian River Lagoon, along with springs is the top priority for this equipment to be deployed.

 “The recent algae blooms in the Indian River Lagoon have been devastating.  Deploying this new technology on Indian River Lagoon and other waterbodies statewide will give us a lot more information on cause and effect relationships when we have a harmful algal bloom,” said Bartlett, Deputy Secretary for Water Policy and Ecosystem Restoration. “We must also diligently look for opportunities to further reduce nutrient pollution in this incredibly valuable state resource.”

 In February, the Department adopted three basin management action plans — or restoration plans — for the Indian River Lagoon, after determining pollutant load reduction targets based on sound science. Research identified stormwater as the primary source of nutrients to the Indian River Lagoon and is confident the projects in these restoration plans will result in significant water quality benefits.

The plans account for more than $300 million invested or to be invested in wastewater and stormwater infrastructure, along with urban and agricultural best management practices. As the plans are implemented, additional projects will be developed. More will be needed to control nutrient inputs to ultimately restore this valuable waterbody. In August, the Department hosted a meeting to update stakeholders on water quality modelling data, research and seagrass monitoring data.

 “The Department continues to collaborate with local stakeholders to achieve water quality benefits for the Indian River Lagoon,” said Tom Frick, Director of DEP’s Division of Environmental Assessment and Restoration. “The opportunity to increase monitoring, specifically with real-time equipment, will help all stakeholders make any needed adjustments to the BMAPs in order to achieve restoration and help reduce algal blooms.”

 As part on ongoing efforts, the Department, the water management districts, Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program, federal and state agencies, local governments and educational institutions are individually and collectively working to find answers to the cause of algal blooms and to identify what, if anything, can be done in the future to limit or avoid a similar event.

Chief among this work are the Indian River Lagoon 2011 Consortium and the District’s Indian River Lagoon Protection Initiative. The Initiative is being developed to better understand the sources, cycling and transport of lagoon nutrients and the long-term impacts from the loss of the lagoon’s seagrasses, as well as potential strategies aimed at restoring the lagoon to a seagrass-dominated ecosystem. The real-time monitoring equipment is critical to the success of this effort.

 “We are pursuing action-oriented solutions that accelerate long-term benefits to the Indian River Lagoon,” said Tanzler. “This requires collaboration at all levels of government and with our stakeholder partners.”

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