The once proposed and soundly opposed Oslo Road Boat Ramp upgrade will simply not go away.
To those who may not be familiar with the proposal, the Oslo Road Boat Ramp is a little-used, 50+ years old facility at the end of Oslo Road, just east of US 1 and the South Vero Square shopping center.
The county has wanted to expand the boat ramp by dredging and deepening, increase the boat ramp’s size to accommodate larger craft and pave and increase the parking area.
Opponents of the County’s plans point out that this area contains one of the most important sea grass beds in our county. Sea grass beds are needed as nurseries and spawning grounds for many species of large fish; in fact, this area of the river is home to the only known nursery area along the entire Indian River Lagoon that supports all four gamefish species: snook, spotted seatrout, redfish and tarpon. This one small section of the river around the boat ramp is so important that it is designated as the Oslo River Conservation Area (ORCA), purchased with State funding to maintain its existing condition.
Residents, scientists, fishermen and elected officials are near unanimous in their desire to restore the Lagoon’s health as pollution has pushed the Lagoon to near collapse. While we have taken extraordinary steps to reverse the trend, this boat ramp expansion seems to fly in the face of those efforts.
Back on October 21, 2014, faced with a standing room only crowd opposed to the plan, the County Commission voted to “postpone” approval of an extensive reconfiguration of the little used Oslo Road boat ramp. Opponents were not happy with the decision to put off a final vote, but Commission Chairman at the time, Bob Solari, assured citizens that delaying it three to five years would effectively kill it.
Well, it wasn’t killed. In fact soon after the 2014 decision to postpone a decision, the county went ahead and applied for the necessary Army Corps of Engineers permit to proceed with the project. (See at indianriverguardian.com).
Three years later, on October 24, 2017, the project was revived despite Chairman Solari’s earlier assurances that postponing it would effectively kill it. County Attorney Bill DeBraal stated that the permit issued by St. Johns Water Management District would expire in two years, so Vice Chairman Peter O’Bryan supported moving forward with muck removal, markers and road paving, saying these improvements would benefit the Lagoon.
To some who oppose the project, this seems a typical way to achieve an unpopular goal: approve a smaller, less controversial aspect of the plan and build on it over time until the full goal is achieved.
Certainly there must be more than meets the eye on a proposal so soundly rejected by virtually all scientists, businesses and citizens of Indian River County, yet proposed almost exclusively by politicians, especially with a viable alternative sitting a few miles up the road.