Florida business owners fear water problems will hurt economy

Brevard commissioner says solution is in the works


BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – Driving over the Pineda Causeway, looking out on the Indian River Lagoon in the city of Cocoa, the views are picturesque, but with closer inspection, the murky water and algae that lead to toxic blooms aren't hard to find.

Many residents, from business owners and county commissioners to real estate agents, like Rick Lacey, with Hart to Hart Real Estate, are concerned.

"Everybody is concerned about the lagoon," Lacey said.

The real estate market is extremely strong, with homes sometimes selling in a week if they're priced right, according to Lacey. However, Lacey said waterfront properties along the Indian River Lagoon are sitting on the market longer than they should.

"Obviously, when people see fish dying, or when they see the water mucked up, or when they see algae, it raises a red flag," he said.

[RELATED: Florida Tech team studies muck in Indian River LagoonFrom muck to fish kills, the Indian River Lagoon is plagued by multiple problems]

The issues also raise a number of questions among potential buyers.

"Like, would you eat the fish that were caught in the river? Would you let your children swim in the river? Those are all natural concerns," Lacey said.

The condition of the state's waterways also impacts business for Laurilee Thompson, the co-owner of Dixie Crossroads Seafood Restaurant in Titusville.

Thompson said when water comes into the ocean from Lake Okeechobee, the commercial fishermen who fill her restaurant's shrimp supply feel the pinch.

"The grouper quit biting. Even 40 miles offshore in 1,200 feet of water the red shrimp disappeared," she said.

Thompson said that could potentially end up hurting both her restaurant and the fishermen who supply it.

"The fishermen aren't going to work if they can't make a living," she said.

Thompson is also a member of the Brevard County Tourist Development Council and said she is concerned about tourism around the state.

[MORE: What's being done in one Florida county to stop the spread of blue-green algaeThe 5 do’s and don’ts to help Florida’s water supply]

"If we don't fix this problem, we will ruin tourism in Florida," Thompson said.

Curt Smith, a Brevard County commissioner running for re-election, also lives on the Indian River Lagoon and said a fix is on the way.

"We've got a great plan in place and we're working the plan, and we've got more money coming in than anticipated," he said.

Two years ago, Brevard County residents voted in a half-cent sales tax for improvements to the lagoon. 

The tax is bringing in $40 million a year, in addition to another $1 million a year from the tourist development council.

"So, were able to accelerate the plans to clean up the Indian River Lagoon," he said.


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