Kennedy Space Center to Launch Indian River Lagoon Restoration Plan

NASA’s recent appointment of Administrator Bill Nelson, Associate Administrator Robert Cabana, and Kennedy Space Center Director Janet Petro may prove very beneficial to the Indian River Lagoon National Estuary.

Bill Nelson, former State Representative and U.S. Senator, grew up in Melbourne, Florida and graduated from Melbourne High School.

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Robert Cabana, NASA Astronaut Corps member, lived in Indian Harbour Beach from 2008 to 2021 during his tenure as KSC Director.

Janet Petro, KSC Associate Director 2008 – 2021, grew up in Satellite Beach and graduated from Satellite High School.

All three newly appointed NASA executives have been Brevard County residents; have seen the demise of the Indian River Lagoon; now have the authority to improve the Kennedy Space Center environment. And it appears that the countdown to restoration has already begun.

In an effort to open a more transparent discourse with KSC management, local environmental groups Indian River Lagoon Roundtable and Sierra Club Florida sent introductory letters to Director Petro. Both environmental groups received responses that reveal a new “KSC Indian River Lagoon Health Initiative Plan” coming this fall:

“We started the KSC Indian River Lagoon Health Initiative Plan early last year, and are working with experts and stakeholders to finalize our initiative. This plan takes into consideration the approximately 140,000-acre Federal property and the Indian River Lagoon estuary on and adjacent to our NASA Center. It proposes projects and restoration actions that promote the lagoon’s health and biodiversity and will serve as a reference to enable informed decisions regarding future lagoon health projects to help increase understanding of water quality, habitat quality, living resources issues, and restoration needs.” Janet Petro, KSC Director

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In addition, Director Petro has introduced the IRL Roundtable to a KSC conservation biologist who is involved in the plan’s development. The biologist is expected to speak to the citizens environmental group this month to provide more details on the upcoming launch of the Kennedy Space Center Indian River Lagoon (IRL) Health Initiative Plan.

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The natural resource also looms large for the quality of life that will help ensure KSC and its commercial space partners can attract and retain the skilled workforce necessary to sustain the Space Coast and the United States as the epicenter of human spaceflight, technology development and space discovery.

Heidy Clifford and Peter Jepeal, volunteers with Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute, search for bottlenose dolphins in the Indian River Lagoon.

KSC’s post-shuttle transformation to a multi-user launch complex is evidenced by the multitude of civil, defense and commercial operations occurring at America’s gateway to space. The EDC proposes a catalytic federal investment to enhance the spaceport capabilities and:

  • Protect U.S. interests in space. 
  • Sustain a high-tech, high-wage workforce. 
  • Serve as a model for building coastal infrastructure resilient to storms, storm surge, sea level rise and climate change. 
  • Protect the water quality of the adjacent Indian River Lagoon. 

Much of the legacy infrastructure in and around the lagoon, including east-west transportation corridors and causeways, restricts water flow and increases water retention, which contribute to harmful algal blooms. 

Algal blooms have choked off the wildlife of the Indian River Lagoon.

Funding for a comprehensive infrastructure improvement package at KSC would accomplish the above aims and:

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  • Accelerate the timeline for infrastructure improvements to east-west road and causeway corridors into KSC, Cape Canaveral Space Force Station and Port Canaveral. 
  • Decrease coastal vulnerability, improve Indian River Lagoon water flow and expand capacity for safe evacuation of KSC personnel in advance of hurricanes.
  • Develop a new 21st-century wastewater treatment plant at KSC utilizing leading-edge technologies to protect the water quality of the Indian River Lagoon. 

In addition to funding KSC infrastructure improvements, the EDC asks Congress to appropriate the full $50 million that was reauthorized with strong bipartisan support in 2021 through the Protect and Restore America’s Estuaries Act.

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