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Fellsmere awarded $4.5 million federal grant for storm water projects, lagoon restoration

NewsFellsmere awarded $4.5 million federal grant for storm water projects, lagoon restoration

FELLSMERE — The city will get $4.5 million in federal COVID-relief money to tackle a handful of storm water treatment projects.

As part of a $20 million grspannt to help restore the Indispann River Lspangoon, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection selected four Fellsmere projects. Most of the money will go toward storm water treatment projects in Brevard County; Fellsmere is the only Treasure Coast municipality to receive money from the grant.

Compared to towns such as Sebastian and Vero Beach, Fellsmere is especially in need of infrastructure for collecting and treating storm water, City Manager Mark Mathes said. The town couldn’t fund these projects itself, so it applied for help from the state.

Fellsmere needs the infrastructure

“We’ve had the biggest backlog … Fellsmere, having been one of our older communities in the county, was developed before all the modern drainage rules have been put in place,” Mathes said.

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The money will be divided among four projects:

  • 259 South Pine St. storm water basins: $250,000
  • Alleyway grading: $1.5 million
  • Storm water greenway: $1.75 million
  • Micro system basins: $1 million

It’s all connected

While Fellsmere is not directly on the Indian River Lagoon, the town’s storm water runs into canals connected to the St. Sebastian River, which feeds into the lagoon.

“Every bit of water that drains into Fellsmere, at least the portion that these projects benefit, go to the lagoon,” Mathes said.

The micro basins, for example, aim to collect storm water from the town’s dirt roads that lack drainage, he said. The storm water greenway project aims to expand a retention ditch along Kentucky Avenue, and alleyway grading will add much-needed swales to carry water through alleyways between properties in the town’s historic center.

“It’s basically going to go inside of our alleyways, finish clearing them out and creating a swale system that will gather the water from the backyards, carry it off to give a little bit of treatment before it goes,” he said.

Other cities along the lagoon, such as Sebastian, still are lacking in significant storm water infrastructure, said Friends of St. Sebastian River President Tim Glover. He’d like to see Sebastian focus on the issue more and take advantage of state funding, he said.

Better storm water retention is something Friends of St. Sebastian River and fellow environmental groups — such as the Clean Water Coalition, Indian River Neighborhood Association and Pelican Island Audobon Society — have advocated for as Sebastian spanims to spannnex spanbout 2,000 spancres Feb. 8. But the groups’ input has mostly been ignored throughout the drafting of the agreement, he said.

“There are other communities around the area doing better with storm water. Certainly Brevard County has done an awful lot more,” he said. “But the dollars and cents involved help out a lot, of course, because they voted in thspant hspanlf-cent sspanles tspanx. So, there’s a lot more you can do when you have the funding for it.”

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