Winter 2001 - V.16 N.4
TABLE OF CONTENT
News Around the Lagoon
Hot issues at the Indian River Lagoon Workshops
The Lagoon Monitor
Local Citizens and Environmental Groups Oppose Canaveral Hospital Filling of Banana River.|
The Cape Canaveral Hospital is seeking a permit from the St. Johns River Water Management District to expand their facility on the 520 Causeway into the Banana River as part of a $30 million 5-year plan. The hospitalís expansion plan calls for filling in 8.85 acres of the Banana River to add new medical buildings and increase parking areas. The hospital currently has 150 beds and will not be increasing the number of beds. According to its own needs assessment, the hospital has only a 48.8% occupancy rate. Most of the 8.85 acres to be filled in are publicly-owned and part of the Banana
River Aquatic Preserve, created by the legislature to protect valuable submerged lands that are critical to water quality, the marine environment and economic well being of marine based businesses. The Aquatic Preserve rules prohibit filling or structures in an aquatic preserve. Cape Canaveral Hospital originally
proposed filling submerged lands that it was given by the State in 1959, but the value of the seagrasses that would be destroyed created strong resistance to the proposal. The current proposal targets the adjacent aquatic preserve since the seagrass there is less dense. The Marine Resources Councilís position is that allowing the filling in of an aquatic preserve would set a precedent that would undo the most important protection given to any portion of the Banana River, one of the most pristine parts of the Indian River Lagoon, an Estuary of National Significance.
One acre of seagrass is within the proposed fill area. Each acre of seagrass in the Indian River Lagoon provides habitat to 10,000 fish and is worth $14,000 each year to the local economy. If the entire 8.85 acres were restored instead of filled in it would provide over 88,000
restored instead of filled in it would provide over 88,000 fish and $120,000 to the local economy each year.
The hospital has proposed mitigating for its impacts by
deeding back to the state the submerged lands it owns that it has not been allowed to fill and also proposes some additional mitigation such as refilling in a deep portion of the river and replanting sea grass there. Cocoa Beach City Council is opposed to swapping the hospital property for the aquatic preserve lands. Local residents, a Cocoa Beach City Councilman and the Florida Audubon Society have asked St. Johns Water Manage-
-ment District for a hearing in order to challenge the hospitalís plan. The hearing is expected to be held in
March. Charles Lee of Florida Audubon wrote "this open water fill is identical to the type of dredge and fill activities that once were responsible for devastating tens of thousands of acres of Floridaís coastal
hospital proposes to place its fill in waters classified as conditionally approved for shellfish harvesting and the water management district rules prohibit permits for filling in this class of waters. Sierra Club and the Partnership for a Sustainable Future have opposed the proposal and argue that the hospital is part of the Health First Network
which could expand other facilities in the area to provide increased service or expand onto existing parking lots rather then fill in the river. Save the Manatee Club opposes the expansion because 6 acres being filled are listed as critical habitat for the manatee.
Next Article: New MRC Offices in Stuart and Ft. Pierce.
© 2003 Marine Resources Council of East Florida