BREVARD COUNTY — The Indian River Lagoon is one of the most important ecological aspects of Brevard County. Groups such as the Indian River Lagoon Coalition and the Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program have worked toward restoring the lagoon once again to its former glory.
On Aug. 1, State Rep. Tyler Sirois (R-Dist. 51) made a public announcement at Kelly Park in Merritt Island regarding filing legislation, adding to Port Canaveral’s charter.
“This legislation will require the port to invest 2% of their gross revenue to lagoon restoration for the next 30 years,” Rep. Sirois said in his announcement. “This creates the potential for an investment of over $61M.”
If the legislation passes, it will be up to the Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program to administer the funds raised, according to Rep. Sirois. He added that in the case of a state emergency, the funds will be suspended.
“My proposal is not intended to diminish the important contributions the port is already making to the environment, like manatee sensors, contributing to wildlife hospitals and the monitoring of water quality at the port,” Rep. Sirois said.
“Port Canaveral is an economic engine that draws visitors from around the world,” Rep. Sirois continued. “Last year, the port reported over $103M in revenue – a historic year.”
In addition to serving the community in Tallahassee, Rep. Sirois is also a member of the House of Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.
As a Brevard County native, born at the Health First Cape Canaveral Hospital and graduate of Cocoa Beach High School, Rep. Sirois said he understands the importance of restoring the lagoon.
“In terms of the legislative deadlines, and I have to be mindful of them, we’ve started this discussion weeks in advance,” Rep. Sirois said. “I want to engage in a dialogue - I’m not married to this concept. I think it’s an important idea, I think it’s worthy of a discussion, and we’re going to do something. The next step for me is to listen to the port.”
Port Commissioner Robyn Hattaway has invited Rep. Sirois to attend the Aug. 28 port commission meeting, and Rep. Sirois said he plans to be there.
“I want to thank Port Commissioner Robyn Hattaway for her open dialogue with me,” Rep. Sirois said.
With the 2016 Indian River Lagoon fish kill still fresh in most residents’ memories, the lagoon’s health is pleasantly surprising, according to Keith Winsten, executive director of the Brevard Zoo.
“I’m pleasantly surprised we have not seen a fish kill this year, the conditions were ripe for one,” Mr. Winsten said. “That’s the thing I always find amazing about natural systems, they are resilient. I’m very cautious at the same time... temperature changes and all those things. It’s a little better than it’s been. It’s a long game, it’s a 10-year game at least.”
The Brevard Zoo’s plans for an aquarium at Port Canaveral include construction to begin in the fall of 2020 and an opening date of fall 2022. The aquarium will shed light on the lagoon through its education center, as well as St. Johns River.
Additionally, a dollar from each aquarium admission ticket will go toward benefiting the lagoon.
For more information, visit www.irlcouncil.com.