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Indian River Lagoon Aquatic Preserves Management Issues - Water Quality Quick Topics

The degradation of water quality within the Indian River Lagoon Aquatic Preserve System and the effects of stormwater discharges on the estuarine system are well documented. Primary factors affecting water quality in the IRL are the quantity, quality, timing, and distribution of stormwater runoff from urban and agricultural sources. More specifically, the system suffers from salinity imbalances, turbid water, high nutrient and sediment loading, hypoxia, and heavy metal and pesticide accumulation in the sediments. The consequences of these physical and chemical disturbances include fish kills, chronic fish abnormalities (fin rot, ulcerations, scoliosis, abnormal lateral lines, scale disorientation, discolored patches, live rot on body, eye and body deformities, growths, bleeding, and severe parasite infestation), algal blooms, a shift from nekton to plankton-dominated system, low transparency, and a lack of SAV and oyster reefs.

In the past, numerous drainage systems were constructed throughout the IRL watershed. Much of this development predated present-day stormwater treatment requirements. As a consequence, stormwater, with its associated pollutants and volumes of freshwater, reach the IRLAP System with little or no pre-treatment. Cumulative impacts of past and present human activities present a significant challenge to conserving the viability of these coastal resources. Promoting Best Management Practices (BMPs) for retrofitting older developments and planning new developments, educating homeowners and making certain accurate resource information is provided to regulatory personnel are important activities for sustaining the natural resources of the IRLAP System.
 Algal bloom

In addition to dramatic watershed changes, shoreline and benthic communities have also been directly impacted. In many areas of the IRLAP System, seawalls, docks, and rip-rap have replaced natural mangroves, seagrasses and oyster habitats along the shorefront. Natural shorelines help stabilize the sediments, dissipate wave action, filter stormwater runoff and provide quality intertidal habitat for numerous birds and aquatic organisms. It is important to promote appropriate set-backs for buildings and natural "living" shoreline stabilization options to regulatory staff, local governments and riparian land owners in order to restore these lost habitat functions. In recent years, the impacts of stormwater discharges and incompatible development practices have been recognized and many local governments have taken action to address these impacts.

Planned strategies to address water quality issues in the Indian River Lagoon Aquatic Preserves include:

  • Create a user-friendly guide that identifies the location of water quality monitoring stations within the aquatic preserves and how to access raw data from each of the entities collecting water quality data.
  • Complete reports that assess the status and trends of water and sediment quality.
  • Develop a prioritized list of monitoring and research needs to address water and sediment quality is developed.
  • Implement shoreline stabilization projects.
  • Restore and establish oyster reef structure.
  • Support efforts to reconnect artificially isolated floodplain habitat (mosquito impoundments).
  • Support muck removal projects within the IRLAP System where appropriate.
  • Actively support Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) efforts that will benefit the IRLAP System.
  • Identify high priority areas for conversion to sewer, and encourage efforts to convert.
  • Maintain list of available agricultural and urban BMPs scientifically demonstrated to improve water quality in the IRLAP System.

Indian River Lagoon Aquatic Preserves

If you want to help preserve the Indian River Lagoon, consider joining Friends of the Spoil Islands at http://friendsofspoilislands.org.

Last updated: November 03, 2016

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