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Emergency response event on protecting lagoon set for Tuesday

STORY BY STEVEN M. THOMAS, (Week of March 21, 2013)
Photo of District 3 Commissioner Tim Zorc.

Six weeks after Harbor Branch Oceangraphic Institute’s science-intensive lagoon symposium, District 3 Commissioner Tim Zorc is hosting a policy-centered follow-up event that could be a turning point in efforts to deal with the unfolding ecological catastrophe in the lagoon.

Zorc won office in November partly on the basis of his promise to make the health the Indian River Lagoon a top priority.

He is following through with a day-long emergency response event in the county commission chambers on Tuesday, March 26, that will include a history of the lagoon going back to 1840 for context, a survey of current environmental problems in the water body and – hopefully – some feasible solutions.

“We will have speakers from St. Johns River Water Management District, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, ORCA, Harbor Branch, Indian River Farms Water Control District and Indian River County,” Zorc says. “We will cover the history of the lagoon and the problems out there in the morning and then consider solutions in the afternoon.”

Zorc is a fresh face on the commission, and seems sincere in his desire to restore and protect the lagoon, which is the economic and aesthetic centerpiece of Indian River County, contributing hundreds of millions of dollars to the economy each year.

“Yasurari Kiryu from Florida Fish and Wildlife has been doing research on the tumors green sea turtles are turning up with,” Zorc says. “It catches your breath a little bit to see what is happening out there.”

Dr. Edie Widder, CEO and senior scientist at the Ocean Research and Conservation Association – says she hopes a high-profile symposium at the county government center will spread awareness of lagoon problems and stir people to action.

Zorc says the registration site for the event went live last Wednesday. “By Monday enough people had signed up to fill half the county commission chamber.”

That leaves another 100 seats available in the chamber and, based on the pace of registration, those will likely be filled by next Tuesday, according to Zorc.
A continental breakfast will be provided during a sign-in and  meet-and-greet period from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m.