The Indian River Lagoon is a coastal estuary defined by its sea grass-based ecology. Sea grasses are flowering, saltwater plants that live in the shallow areas of an estuarine system. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY PABLO GONZALEZ

FL - Florida Institute of Technology given $1 million from State lawmakers for Indian River Lagoon

State lawmakers gave the Florida Institute of Technology $3 million, including nearly $1 million to create a temporary opening to the Indian River Lagoon so that more ocean water can flow into the estuary and possibly help clean it up.

The Florida Legislature gave $921,500 this month to pursue federal permitting for a lagoon "inflow" study of Port Canaveral, near Canaveral Locks. The hope is that if more ocean water can flow into the lagoon, the cleaner it will be.

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"It's just to see the magnitude," FIT researcher Gary Zarillo said of the degree to which the project might improve water quality. "It's one small step."

The university will also receive $2 million in state money for its Biomedical Aerospace Manufacturing specialized equipment project.

The $921,500 will go for the Restore Lagoon Inflow temporary demonstration project’s U.S. Army Corps permitting and design engineering phase, which is actually phase III of the overall project. The third phase will support comparative research to include monitoring, and design of a temporary inflow system at the port permitted by the U.S. Army Corps reviewed by Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

FIT chose Port Canaveral as the temporary inflow demonstration system site " in part because of the lower cost and ease of access for a temporary demonstration system, as well as the existing exchange of seawater from port access at the locks," says a frequently asked questions page about the project on the FIT website.

"If a permanent inflow system is considered by policymakers in the future, a permanent installation site or sites along the lagoon system will need to be selected," it added.

Findings from phases I and II of the research and modeling efforts highlighted the potential for better ocean inflow to help stabilize the lagoon's water quality by flushing out the excess nutrients that can fuel harmful algae blooms.

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