Brevard County commissioners approved a measure Tuesday asking Gov. Rick Scott and lawmakers to take steps to address a massive fish kill at Indian River Lagoon, but fell short of a resolution asking Scott to declare a state of emergency along Florida’s Space Coast.
The approved measure ask officials in Tallahassee to require that septic tanks be inspected when a house is sold, increase funding for dredging and expedite permitting for dredging muck.
The muck comes from a brown algae bloom that is being blamed for the fish kill. Some 65,000 pounds of fish have been cleaned up in the area in the past two weeks. The algae isn’t considered toxic to humans but has left behind clumps of rotted vegetation and depleted oxygen levels in those waters, officials said.
A resolution proposed by Commissioner Trudie Infantini would have asked Scott to invoke his state of emergency powers. Those powers direct needed resources at the problem, suspend regulations if needed and facilitate cooperation among governments.
Several of the commissioners said they weren’t voting for the state of emergency resolution since it was only a short-term solution.
“It’s sad. I very seldom see pelicans. The fish aren’t jumping. It’s brown. I’m 100 percent behind whatever we can do, but I don’t think a state of emergency is warranted,” said Commissioner Curt Smith, who lives on the Indian River Lagoon. “It just doesn’t rise to this threshold.”
Commissioner Andy Anderson said only a section of the lagoon was affected.
“If I have an injury to my calf, to cut off my whole leg would be an over-reaction,” Anderson said.
The fish kill left a tremendous stench over the Indian River Lagoon, a 150-mile system of waterways made up of the Banana, Mosquito and Indian rivers. It stretches from south of Daytona Beach to Palm Beach County and is considered one of the most biodiverse estuaries in North America.
Species that have died in the fish kill include sheepshead, mullet, croaker, puffer fish, catfish, flounder, spadefish and horseshoe crabs. Fish kills have happened on a fairly regular basis in recent years but none have been as big as the most recent one.
Infantini said she was disappointed with the decision, but commissioners approved another resolution she proposed declaring the Indian River Lagoon one of the county’s highest priorities.
Republished with permission of the Associated Press.