Anticipation grows for ‘Lagoon Health Update’

The first long-range assessment of the ailing Indian River Lagoon being gleaned from 20 years’ worth of data will soon be available online and in print, setting the bar on solutions now in the works to see which option is working best.

The Marine Resources Council (MRC) has completed and soon will print the important state of the Indian River document on the 156-mile lagoon that extends from Ponce De Leon Inlet in the north to Jupiter Inlet in the south, and is home to 3,500 species. It has been anticipated for months and is the result of hundreds of hours of effort including retrieving information from paper records.

Just don’t call it a report card, said MRC executive Director Leesa Souto. It’s the Indian River Lagoon Health Update.

Rather than a report card-like grade of A through F for 10 geographic areas in the lagoon, the report – to be compiled annually – uses numeric scores ranging from 0 to 100.

“With letter grades it takes a 10-point improvement to change grades to see progress. The numbers will show a more refined gradient and show smaller increments of progress,’’ she said.

In addition to a massive amount of information collected for the document, the data often had to be “cleaned” or translated into similar format and only uses data measures of chlorophyll, nitrogen, phosphorus, seagrass depth and the turbidity of the water as an aspect of water quality.

“We can only look at measurements or parameters that have regulatory targets associated with them or range associated with them,’’ she said.

Unfortunately, the initial assessment in many areas of the lagoon under those criteria would be considered a flunking grade under any standard. However, Souto looks to a wave of new projects and increased interest as part of the Save the Indian River Lagoon effort as the reason the situation may soon improve.

“What we show with the report is that things are pretty bad but you know what they say, you have to hit rock bottom and you go up from there,” Souto said.

“We’re at a point in history where everybody has kind of joined forces in a positive way. There’s a lot of focus on the lagoon and the political will is there.

“Everybody’s got a different idea as to how to go about it, but everybody is legitimately it seems to me interested in trying to bring the lagoon back. It’s very hopeful,” she said.

As to why print the document rather than have it only exist online, Souto said the reports will make a good collection as a permanent record of progress.

“There’s a segment of our society – and I consider myself included – that prefers to see things in print. It will all be digital as well but there’s a need to have that history.

“We want this to be something that you can have a collection of them from year to year to see how things change overtime. They will have a shelf life,’’ she said.

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