Among the projects are ones focusing on improving the conditions of shorelines; restoring the oyster and clam populations; removing abandoned boats from the lagoon; removal of litter from the shoreline; developing field guides about lagoon recreational opportunities and manatees; and teaching young children about the importance of coastal conservation.
Julia Braga, a Tourist Development Council member who chairs the Beach Improvement Committee, noted that the projects that were approved for grants were “very diverse in nature, and each covered a different aspect” of the efforts to restore the lagoon.
Braga, who is general manager of the Residence Inn Melbourne, said that, while the projects will not solve all of the lagoon’s problems, they will play a role in improving the condition of the lagoon.
The primary purpose of the Tourism + Lagoon Program is the development of projects that demonstrate and quantify benefits to Brevard County tourism and health of the Iagoon.
Projects that did not have matching funds were limited to applying for grants of no more than $50,000. Projects that had matching funds needed to provide a match of at least 75 cents for every $1 of grant funding.
These are the approved projects, the coordinating entities and the grant amounts:
- Titusville Causeway multitrophic shoreline stabilization and resiliency action project/Phase 2B and 2C (Brevard County Natural Resources Management Department), $250,000.
- Samsons Island submerged lands restoration/Phase 2 (city of Satellite Beach), $117,000.
- Restoration of clam population in the Indian River Lagoon for water quality improvement and economic resiliency (University of Florida Whitney Laboratory), $49,999.
- Using citizen science to build a strategic spatial framework to guide conservation and restoration of Indian River Lagoon habitats and associated recreational fisheries (Bonefish & Tarpon Trust), $49,999.
- Max Brewer Causeway north shoreline restoration feasibility study (Brevard County Boating and Waterways Program), $49,948.
- Derelict vessel removal (Brevard County Boating and Waterways Program), $49,900.
- Manatee field guide outdoor signage and distribution (Brevard County Natural Resources Management Department), $48,000.
- Shuck and share shell recycling for Brevard County oyster restoration (East Coast Zoological Society of Florida Inc./Brevard Zoo), $44,560.
- Lagoon recreation field guide (Brevard County Natural Resources Management Department), $44,000.
- Scobie Park improvements (city of Titusville), $43,000.
- Keep Brevard Beautiful flex team North Banana River Drive litter removal (Keep Brevard Beautiful Inc.), $40,000.
- McNabb Park living shoreline oyster farming (city of Cocoa Beach), $20,000.
- Putting coastal conservation books in the hands of young children in Brevard County to protect the Indian River Lagoon (University of Central Florida Foundation), $19,000
The grant applications were approved after being evaluated by members of the Tourist Development Council’s Beach Improvement Committee. Applicants needed to receive an average score of at least 75 from the nine-member committee to be eligible for a grant. Most of the applicants also made in-person presentations to the Beach Improvement Committee.
Funding for the grants comes from the county’s 5% tourist development tax on hotel rooms and other short-term rentals. From the tax revenue, 25% goes into the beach improvement fund that helps pay for beach renourishment projects and the Tourism + Lagoon Program grants, among other things.
Most of the money in the beach improvement fund goes toward beach renourishment, which Braga said is vital to the beach-focused tourist community, especially when beach sand is washed away by hurricanes or tropical storms.
“We have to keep our eye on the big ball,” Braga said.
The Tourism + Lagoon Program grants are separate from the lagoon-related projects funded by a special half-percent “Save Our Indian River Lagoon” sales tax that Brevard County voters approved in 2016.