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Brevard County Responds To Samuelson Op-Ed.

A few weeks ago, we covered an op-ed piece written by Florida Today Editorial Advisory Board member Ayn Samuelson. The piece covered a lack of a plan, alternatives and other issues concerning the Indian River Lagoon.

Brevard County Director of Natural Resources Management Virginia Barker has responded to the op-ed.

image courtesy florida Today

image courtesy florida Today

Yes, there IS a plan for the Indian River Lagoon

In a recent FLORIDA TODAY, guest column entitled “Is the Indian River DOA?” it was stated that “no coordinated, legitimate plan for recovery has been crafted yet.”

This statement is unfounded and insulting to the many dedicated and talented community members who, after more than 150 public meetings, developed the Indian River Lagoon Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan.

The plan was adopted by the Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program, the Governor of Florida, and the United States Environmental Protection Agency. It outlines 68 actions agreed to by more than 100 agencies and local governments with management responsibility for the Lagoon. The plan was updated in 2008 with additional public engagement and intergovernmental coordination.

In 2009, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection completed another important document for the lagoon: The Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) Report – Nutrient and Dissolved Oxygen TMDLs for the Indian River Lagoon and Banana River Lagoon.

Action plans for complying with recommended nutrient load limits were adopted in 2013 after numerous public meetings.

The guest column also alleged that dredging will “stir up solids and toxins into the waterways, impacting both wildlife and humans.” Current and prior muck dredging in the lagoon has required technology and safety measures to successfully prevent such impacts.

The writer claims there are other technologies that can be less disruptive to the environment, and less costly than the demucking process. But she failed to identify what these might be. While no alternative technologies have been substantiated scientifically, all such offers are being reviewed.

Restoration of the lagoon will not be easy or come as quickly as we all would like.

It will require long-term commitment and funding. Cleanup and restoration of the lagoon can only be accomplished through federal, state, and local funding partnerships.

Yet, there are signs that progress is being made. Just last week, the U.S. Senate passed bipartisan legislation to reauthorize funding for the National Estuary Program. The State Legislature has approved over $70 million for lagoon projects in Brevard County over the last three years.

Residents need to reduce the amount of organic and inorganic pollution they contribute to the lagoon.

Government needs to remove decades of excess pollution that is now mucking up the lagoon.

Everyone needs to support university and non-profit efforts to restore seagrass, living shorelines and shellfish habitats that constantly filter water and provide habitat for healthy fisheries.

Blaming others is certainly not the solution.

Virginia Barker is Brevard County director of natural resources management.

The issue here seems to be one of semantics. In the governmental world of Barker, a “plan” is a statement of what is hoped to be accomplished.

In the real world of Samuelson and the rest of us non-governmental peons, a “plan” has goals, strategies for achieving those goals and a methodology for measuring progress toward those goals.

This means that when Barker points to the Indian River Lagoon Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan, she is looking at a statement of what a group wants to get done. If you read the plan, there is no measurable and quantifiable statistics, time line or statements of progress.

In Barker’s world, “progress” is measured a different way as she states:

Yet, there are signs that progress is being made. Just last week, the U.S. Senate passed bipartisan legislation to reauthorize funding for the National Estuary Program. The State Legislature has approved over $70 million for lagoon projects in Brevard County over the last three years.

It is not actual results that are progress to Barker, it is the amount of money coming in. It doesn’t matter if that money accomplishes anything which is Samuelson’s point, but rather that there is money to fund Barker and other governmental officials salaries.

In fact, the day before Barker’s response was in the Florida Today, there was another article in the paper:

Did fertilizer use drop since the rainy season bans?

The data is sketchy and incomplete. But the only data Florida collects on the issue, for now, shows turf fertilizer distributed yearly in Brevard County dropped by a quarter since strict, widespread fertilizer ordinances took effect two years ago.

And during summer rainy-season bans on fertilizer use, manufacturers distributed about half as much turf fertilizer in the county, state agriculture data shows.

Wednesday is the first day people must stop fertilizing for the summer rainy season, June 1 to Sept. 30.

But communities statewide have wondered whether the ordinances — often controversial — delivered as promised. Many who pointed to urban fertilizer runoff as the main culprit killing the Indian River Lagoon anticipated better water quality after a few years. But recent fish kills and brown algae outbursts raise questions, and no hard data directly links onset of the ordinances to better water quality in the lagoon. What data does exist here and elsewhere points to promising signs, however.

Barker heralds the fertilizer reduction plan in her op-ed and yet once again, there is no hard data to support the claim that the ban is working or having an effect.

Such is a “plan” only in the minds of bureaucrats. Such a “plan” highlights Samuelson’s point of what is lacking in the very “plan” Barker heralds with Samuelson saying:

Instead of a well-researched, coordinated plan of action that assesses both costs and benefits, and efficient allocation of our limited resources, residents encountered more government resolutions, committees and task forces.

Barker also makes a claim against Samuelson that is not supported. Barker writes:

The guest column also alleged that dredging will “stir up solids and toxins into the waterways, impacting both wildlife and humans.” Current and prior muck dredging in the lagoon has required technology and safety measures to successfully prevent such impacts.

What Samuelson wrote, however was that the dredging has a potential to cause harm, saying:

Unfortunately, dredging/demucking appears to be the most acceptable method employed by governmental decision-makers, even though it has the potential to remove both living and dead creatures from the creeks and canals, as well as to stir up solids and toxins into the waterways, impacting both wildlife and humans.

The odd thing is that Barker misrepresents what Samuelson wrote, and then acknowledges that there is potential for harm just as Samuelson wrote. If there were not potential for harm, then why say that dredging “has required technology and safety measures to successfully prevent such impacts?”

For the record, the Deepwater Horizon oil platform had safety measures in place. That didn’t exactly work out as planned. If you don’t like that example, you may remember the Gold King Mine spill caused by the Environmental Protection Agency, the very agency that is tasked to prevent such disasters.

Speaking of disasters, there have been numerous and documented sewage dumps into the lagoon by local municipalities. Has anyone been held accountable for them? Did the person who authorized a release get terminated? A reprimand? Did the person who opened the valve suffer any consequences?

While Barker claims that “blaming others is certainly not the solution,” not holding people accountable isn’t a solution either.

A “plan” is not a solution – especially one that no one in the real world would consider a “plan.”

Barker’s response can be summarized by the a line from “Blazing Saddles:”

We’ve gotta protect our phoney baloney jobs, gentlemen!




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One Response to “Brevard County Responds To Samuelson Op-Ed.”

  1. Truthful says:

    Why would county personnel write a “hit piece”?

    Was this done to discourage public input or to try to build the case of having accomplished significant results impacting the lagoon’s health?

    Unacceptable behavior on the part of government.

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