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Push to improve tidal flow in the Indian River Lagoon

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Posted at 5:28 PM, Jul 03, 2019

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Indian River County Commissioner Tim Zorc says Bethel Creek has a storied maritime history, with the Bethel Creek House serving as a refuge for sailors in the 1800s.

“In 1915, there was a group called the Vero Beach Inlet Committee that selected Bethel Creek and applied to the Army Corps of Engineers to apply for a permanent inlet opening at this location," said Zorc on Wednesday.

World War I put a halt to those plans and in the century since, the creek has been surrounded by development, and the nearest inlets are in Ft. Pierce and Sebastian.

“This water in this area of the lagoon doesn’t have the opportunity to benefit from tidal flow," said Zorc.

The commissioner is hoping a new project coming to the Indian River Lagoon will look for solutions at Bethel Creek.

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Gary Zarillo, a professor in the Florida Tech Department of Ocean Engineering, says Indian River County will be part of their study and they're hoping to give a little assist to Mother Nature establishing the natural connections to the ocean.

“You could for short periods of time establish a connection between the coastal ocean and the (Indian River Lagoon.) Pump some water in at opportune times and close the pump down," said Zarillo.

It’s not certain whether Bethel Creek will be the focus. Indian River County has been looking for tidal flow solutions for Bethel Creek for some time now, and it wasn’t that long ago this was the site of a massive sewage spill.

Because of its distance from the inlets, residents complained about the water for months after the 2017 spill.

Proposals could involve a pipe to bring in seawater to flush the inlets. Work is expected to get underway later this summer.