In the central and northern regions of the Indian River Lagoon, record setting algal blooms have caused the loss of over 40,000 acres of seagrass, and the deaths of 223 manatees, 74 bottlenose dolphins, and over 300 pelicans. One major contributing factor is the extensive organic muck deposits created by decades of runoff, erosion and nutrient loading. These accumulated muck sediments contain significant "legacy" nutrients, which regularly flux into the water column, and recycle nutrients within the Indian River Lagoon system. Muck sediments also negatively impact navigation, damage seagrass beds, and can consume dissolved oxygen to create anoxic bottom conditions detrimental to lagoon organisms.
Brevard County has embarked on an aggressive restoration strategy for the lagoon to reduce excess nutrient inputs, remove the legacy load of muck, restore the filtration system (oysters, clams and wetlands) and ensure that sound research is the basis of the effort. As part of this restoration strategy, the removal of the legacy load (muck) is critical to overall success.
In 2014, the State legislature allocated $10M to this project to accomplish both the science side of this question and also kick start the removal of the legacy load of muck in the lagoon. While there have been several tributary muck removal projects, to include the Eau Galle River project currently in permitting, little work has been done in the main stem of the lagoon or at the interface of the lagoon and the tributaries.
The primary purpose of this project focuses on “Removing the Muck” and providing sound “Research” by employing science alongside muck removal in the lagoon. Intuitively most ecologists and scientist are in agreement that removing the muck is a beneficial restoration effort, along with reducing the upland sources. However, there is very little science to document the actual ecological benefit of muck removal.
The Brevard County Muck Dredging project will remove up to 350,000 cubic yards of muck soils from sites within the Indian River Lagoon, the Banana River Lagoon and associated tributaries. This dredging project will remove up to 672 tons of total nitrogen (TN) and 144 tons of total phosphorous (TP) which are contained within the muck deposits.