Brevard County commissioners this week unanimously approved grants for 10 projects designed to benefit the Indian River Lagoon.
The Tourist Development Council’s Tourism + Lagoon Grant Program allocations — which will total $939,343 — are funded by revenue from Brevard County’s 5% tourist development tax on hotel rooms and other short-term rentals.
These were the approved allocations for the 2022-23 budget year that begins Oct. 1, along with the applicants for the projects:
- Restoring seagrass for improved natural resilience (Brevard County Natural Resources Management Department), $250,000.
- Titusville Causeway multi-trophic shoreline stabilization and resiliency action project, phase 2C (Brevard County Natural Resources Management Department), $250,000.
- Brevard County oyster restoration (Brevard Zoo), $113,840.
- Innovative solutions for protecting our public spaces (Marine Resources Council), $49,999.
- Satellite Beach adopt-a-canal (city of Satellite Beach), $49,999.
- Samsons Island submerged land restoration, Phase 3 (city of Satellite Beach), $49,839.
- Derelict vessel removal (Brevard Country Natural Resources Management Department/Boating & Waterways), $49,300.
- Restoration of native clam communities in the Indian River Lagoon for improved water quality and economic resiliency (University of Florida Whitney Laboratory), $49,100.
- Keep Brevard Beautiful flex team North Banana River Drive litter removal (Keep Brevard Beautiful), $40,000.
- New swell mangrove restoration and outreach project (Sea Redwine), $37,266.
The grants are targeted to support projects that benefit tourism on the Space
Coast and promote the health of the Indian River Lagoon.
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The Tourist Development Council’s Beach Committee scored the 14 applications submitted for the grants, and on July 18 unanimously recommended that 10 projects receive grants. Those recommendations were unanimously approved by the Tourist Development Council on July 27 and by the County Commission on Tuesday.
Grant amounts were based on the project cost; the applicant’s average scores from the Beach Committee members; and whether the applicant was providing matching funds from another partner entity to help pay for the project.
A grant request of less than $50,000 did not require matching funds. But a grant request of $50,000 or more required matching funds totaling at least 75% of the grant amount.
Applicants needed an average score of at least 75 points from committee members to qualify for a grant.
Julie Braga, who chaired the Tourist Development Council’s Beach Committee that scored the applications, said she was very encouraged by the quality of the applications, which were highly competitive.
“It’s a win-win” for the lagoon and the tourism industry, said Braga, who is general manager of the Residence Inn by Marriott in Melbourne,
Additionally, Braga said she had “the A team” of environmental experts as part of her nine-member committee, adding that “it’s been an honor to serve with them.”
Among the Beach Committee members was Duane De Freese, executive director of the Indian River Lagoon Council and the Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program.
De Freese said the grant program is “an example of the tourism industry supporting an environmental asset of the county.”
He said the County Commission’s approval of the grants is “great news, and shows the commitment in Brevard County to support the Indian River Lagoon.”
The four applicants that scored lowest among the 14 did not receive grants. Those projects and applicants were:
- Cocoa Beach pool pavilion kayak launch (city of Cocoa Beach).
- Veteran’s Memorial park interactive signage (Merritt Island Redevelopment Agency).
- Improving with communication/creating “Sam the Superclam” book for children (University of Central Florida Foundation).
- The Indian River Lagoon mural project/learning through art (town of Melbourne Beach).
The Cocoa Beach and the Merritt Island Redevelopment Agency applications scored higher than 75 points. But Beach Committee members chose to fund to fully fund the top-ranked projects until the funding ran out, leaving those two applicants with no grant.
This was the first time in the four years the program has been in effect that there were more qualified grant applicants than money available.
The UCF Foundation and Melbourne Beach projects fell below the 75-point scoring threshold, so were not eligible for grants.
The Tourism + Lagoon Grant Program is separate from the much larger Save Our Indian River Lagoon program, in which as special half-percent sales tax helps pay for projects designed to improve the condition of the lagoon.
Brevard County voters in 2016 approved implementation of the Save Our Indian River Lagoon sales tax for a 10-year period, with 62.4% support. That tax is projected to raise $542 million during that 10-year span, or an average of $54.2 million a year.
Dave Berman is business editor at FLORIDA TODAY. Contact Berman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @bydaveberman.
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