Thursday, November 29, 2007

Momentum is Mounting

On Tuesday, the Jacksonville City Council passed a resolution in opposition of the water withdrawal proposals in Central Florida. The vote was unanimous. This comes on the heals of similar resolutions that were passed by Neptune Beach City Council and the Jacksonville Beach CC. Today, we received copy of a letter that Jacksonville Mayor John Peyton recently sent to the St. Johns River Water Management District expressing serious concerns about the proposed withdrawals and urging them to look at other water supply alternatives and conservation measures first.

The St. Johns Board of County Commissioners is currently considering a resolution, as well.

As public opposition continues to grow, our elected officials are finally beginning to step up, voice their concerns, and demonstrate the leadership that will be necessary if we are to stop these ill-conceived and shortsighted withdrawal plans. Hopefully, the Governor is listening and will take action, as well.

If you haven't already done so, please contact the Governor and let him know that you are opposed to the withdrawals and support an expansion of wastewater reuse, more sustainable planning and building practices, and agressive water conservation programs.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Education is the Key

As I have mentioned before, we are excited to have Danielle Dolan on board with us. Danielle is our new Education and Outreach Coordinator. She will be developing lesson plans, educational activities, and programs and leading educational boat trips. As I am writing this, Danielle is getting ready to embark on the latest Family River Ride boat trip with over 50 kids and adults.

I will go ahead and state the obvious. Education is critical to the future of our river. If people don't understand, appreciate, and have a connection to the river, they will not be as inclined to take responsibility for protecting it. Through the boat trips, we are trying to give people the opportunity to get to know their river. The St. Johns is a unique, fascinating, and beautiful body of water with a rich history and biodiversity, and many people just don't know that much about it.

If you can't take one of our boat trips, I encourage you to get out there and explore the St. Johns River on your own. Visit a park that is located on the river, attend a naturalist program, go for a paddle, or just take a stroll along the riverwalk. Read a book about the St. Johns (I highly recommend "River of Lakes"),and learn more about this remarkable river. On our website, we have a lot of information about the ecology and history of the river. We also have a page about the inspiration that the river has provided for artists and a section about how to access the St. Johns - where to eat, hike, boat, camp, rent a kayak, etc. Our new Education page has links to numerous education websites related to the river.

For more information about upcoming Family River Ride boat trips:

St. Johns Riverkeeper Education and Outreach website page:

Monday, November 12, 2007

Oil Spill Update

As we reported last week, a large fuel oil spill occurred on the St. Johns River on November 3rd. We now know that Sun State Towing was involved in the spill, although the Coast Guard is apparently still trying to determine who will be held responsible.

Last week, cleanup crews were busy at Jacksonville University cleaning off boats, docks, and rocks along the shoreline. Unfortunately, not much more can be done to clean the oil off of the shoreline vegetation.

These two pictures were taken at Jacksonville University by Dr. Gerry Pinto.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Fuel Spill

Today, we were contacted by a concerned citizen and fisherman who witnessed a significant fuel spill on the St. Johns River near the Lions Club Boat Ramp in Jacksonville. As a result, we called the Coast Guard to report the incident. We were told by the USCG that a barge was recently receiving fuel at a fuel dock and the person filling the tanks left the pump unattended while he went to use the bathroom. As a result, the barge tanks overflowed, spilling over 500 gallons of fuel oil into the St. Johns River. The USCG is in the process of investing the incident and will fine the company responsible for the spill.

As you can see from the photo, the aquatic vegetation at Lions Club Boat Ramp is coated with an oily residue. We are thankful that the concerned citizen contacted us and informed us about this incident. We will follow-up with the USCG to make sure that the responsible parties are held accountable for this unfortunate incident. This is a good example of how citizens can help us to indentify and resolve problems impacting the health of our river.

Eco-Heritage Boat Trips

This afternoon, we completed our most recent 3-day St. Johns River Eco-Heritage Boat Trips between Sanford and Jacksonville. We had 36 passengers on the trip from Jax to Sanford and 38 passengers on the return trip from Sanford to Jax. Despite the ominous weather predictions and the approaching Tropical Storm Noel, we were fortunate to be able to explore the St. Johns and learn about its rich history, culture and ecology without too much foul weather or discomfort. We experienced some rain, sunshine, and a passing cold front. We learned about Trout Creek from Naturalist Beverly Fleming, the steamboat Maple Leaf from Shorty Robbins, the river culture of West Volusia County from Bill Dreggors,and the history and ecology of the St. Johns from author Bill Belleville. We saw manatees, bald eagles, gators, and numerous wading birds. We were immersed in the St. Johns and experienced the rhythms and essence of one of the great rivers on this planet.

Bill Belleville talks about the importance of establishing and developing a sense of place and connnection to our natural world. These trip hopefully help to bring the passengers and the staff of Riverkeeper closer to realizing that goal and understanding the importance of protecting the health and integrity of the St. Johns River.

The picture above was taken from the balcony of Blair's Jungle Den motel in Volusia just south of Lake George. You can see that the river narrows significantly and does not look anything like the river that flows through the Jacksonville metropolitan area. Seeing the river as I did in this picture makes me realize how fragile it is and how troublesome the proposals to withdraw water from the river just south of here really are. There will be more to come about the trips and the water withdrawal proposals soon.