Banana River Lagoon, a 10,000 acre federally-protected area, is home to manatees and redfish. It is off-limits to motorboats, but a train line might be in the works.
The lagoon, part of the famed Indian River lagoon system, has remained a protected area since around the start of the U.S. space program. It is critically important to the endangered West Indian manatee and is home to the highest densities of this mammal in Florida.
A rail line crossing the northern half of the lagoon was recently proposed. The rail line would run, on an earthen berm, north from Port Canaveral, and through parts of the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and the Kennedy Athletic, Recreation, and Social Park. It would eventually link up on the grounds of the Kennedy Space Center, which has an existing railhead.
The Canaveral Port Authority is the main proponent for the rail project. However, their proposal faces some opposition, and the Port Authority must answer 11 pages of questions. The questions, from the National Surface Transportation Board, are in response to the Port Authority’s request for an Environmental Impact Statement.
Anglers, kayakers, and other recreational visitors to the lagoon have questions of their own regarding the fate of the lagoon. Environmental activists, scientists, and politicians also question the wisdom of a rail line through a protected, and highly popular, recreation area. As much as $800 million in revenue is attributed to commercial and recreational activities in the lagoon, despite the ban on powered watercraft put in place to protect the manatees. Kayaks, standup paddleboards, and wading anglers have had exclusive access to the greater part of the lagoon since 1990.
Former Florida State Representative Sue Ford is the most vocal and organized opponent of the project. She created a website, www.stopportcanaveralrailextension.com, which includes a petition against the rail line. She contends there is a far less damaging alternative route the Canaveral Port Authority has already dismissed.
To keep up with this project and the fight against it, visit the following websites.
Stop Port Canaveral Rail Extension Facebook page.
To view the plans for the rail line: www.portcanaveralraileis.com