Lagoon worth $3.7B to Brevard and beyond
New study looks at the value estuary brings to region
Jim Waymer, Florida Today 13 Oct 08;
What's the Indian River Lagoon worth? About $3.7 billion, a new study says.
The one-year, $112,000 effort examined benefits of the 156-mile-long estuary that spans Volusia, Brevard, Indian River, St. Lucie and Martin counties.
Officials hope to use the new figures for the estuary to leverage future government money for more projects to restore its habitats -- and preserve it as economic driver.
"I think the Indian River Lagoon is a tremendous draw," said Ron Pritchard of Merritt Island, a former Brevard County commissioner and a key advocate on boating issues. "It's one of the reasons I moved here."
Specifically, the study said activities dependent on the lagoon generated $630 million in income to local residents in the five counties, $112 million in state and local tax revenues, and 15,000 full- and part-time jobs.
The total economic value in Brevard topped $1.2 billion, including about $100 million in income to residents and 3,112 full- and part-time jobs.
An acre of seagrass -- the main money machine when it comes to supporting fish, crabs and other lagoon life -- is worth about $4,600 per year in the recreational and commercial fishing it supports, the study says.
Living within about a third of a mile from the lagoon adds $20.3 billion to real estate values in Brevard and $47 billion to the five-counties along the lagoon, which include Brevard.
The study, based on 2007 figures, found:
# $2.1 billion in recreational spending and use value related to the lagoon. Use value is the additional amount people would be willing to pay to recreate on the lagoon.
# $3.4 million in "non-use" value, which is the maximum amount residents and visitors are willing to pay to maintain the Indian River Lagoon in its current condition.
# $47 billion in total contribution of the lagoon to 2007 property values.
# $91 million in restoration, research and education value -- which ishow much third parties, such as the government, are willing to pay to conduct research, restoration and education activities.
# $3.8 million in the dockside market value of commercial fish harvested from the lagoon and the amount consumers are willing to pay for lagoon fish.
# Recreational and non-use value of the lagoon would increase by about $80 million a year, with significantly improved water quality and a greater diversity of wildlife.
Economists at the firm Hazen and Sawyer of Hollywood conducted the study for the St. Johns River Water Management District and South Florida Water Management District, which split the cost.
The lagoon's economic impact hadn't been examined since 1995, when a study calculated the lagoon's value at about $731 million annually.
That study only included developed properties, however, while the new, broader study considered all properties.
Troy Rice, director of the Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program, confirmed that such studies can justify future government spending on preservation.
"It will certainly be helpful to have this information when we speak to the federal and state legislatures," Rice said.