District, partners celebrate cleaner canals in Indian River Lagoon

Dr. Ann Shortelle and project partners at the Cocoa Beach Dredging Project kickoff event

District Executive Director Dr. Ann Shortelle and partners gathered today to celebrate the Cocoa Beach dredging project.

District Executive Director Dr. Ann Shortelle and partners gathered today to celebrate the Cocoa Beach dredging project.

PALM BAY, Fla., Nov. 30, 2017 — The removal of more than 44,000 cubic yards of muck was a cause for celebration today for the St. Johns River Water Management District and its partners, Brevard County and the city of Cocoa Beach.

The celebration included a boat tour of 13 canals in the Banana River Lagoon region of the Indian River Lagoon where officials are pumping muck — anywhere from two to 12 feet thick — to a containment area just south of Minuteman Causeway.

Muck is a mix of fine-grained sediments, sand, clay and organic matter in untreated stormwater runoff that drains to canals and storm drains connected to the lagoon. Muck can accumulate nutrients that contribute to algal blooms and create detrimental conditions for seagrasses and organisms vital to the lagoon’s aquatic food chain.

“This project is another example of the district’s commitment to cost-share projects that have an immediate impact on water quality in the Indian River Lagoon,” said St. Johns River Water Management Executive Director Dr. Ann Shortelle. “Striving for a lagoon that is productive and healthy can require large projects and several funding partners. We’re in this together.”

“We are thankful to our partnership with the St. Johns River Water Management District to assist our lagoon cleanup efforts,” said Cocoa Beach Mayor Ben Malik. “Our waterways are a vital natural and economic resource that must be preserved. We must all work together to not only remove the muck from our waterways but to find out the causes of such and lower the inflow of nitrogen and pollutants into our waterways to save this precious resource for our future generations. ”

“Brevard County is pleased to be a funding partner in expanding this project to Phase III. The environmental benefits of muck removal are so clear. Clean canals are better for water quality, marine life and our economy,” said Virginia Barker, director of Brevard County’s Natural Resources Management Department. “As Phase II began, people in the Phase I area were already bragging about seeing more fish in their canals.”

Since 2015, Cocoa Beach has been working to remove a total of 206,657 cubic yards of muck from the Banana River Lagoon portion of the Indian River Lagoon in three phases. The district is proud to be a financial partner in the second phase and this third and final leg of the project.

The 44,044 cubic yards of muck soils to be removed by the total project are estimated to contain 55,495 pounds of total nitrogen and 34,002 pounds of total phosphorus. Total project cost is approximately $1.8 million. The district’s portion is $608,684. Dredging began in November 2017 and is expected to be completed by Sept. 2019.