Wednesday, April 16, 2008

St. Johns Receives National Attention

St. Johns Listed as One of America’s Most Endangered Rivers

Today, American Rivers, the nation’s largest organization fighting for healthy rivers, named Florida’s St. Johns River as one of America’s Most Endangered Rivers™. The St. Johns was nominated by St. Johns Riverkeeper.

The 2008 America’s Most Endangered Rivers™ report highlights the 10 rivers in the United States that are facing the most uncertain future, rather than those suffering from the worst chronic problems. The St. Johns was selected because of Central Florida’s plans to remove over 260 million gallons per day from the St. Johns River system, and the threats that this will potentially pose to the river’s ecological health and the economic benefits that the St. Johns provides.

“I don’t know whether to celebrate or cry”, said St. Johns Riverkeeper, Neil Armingeon. “This elevates the proposed water withdrawal issue to a national level and brings this to the attention of a worldwide media market. Florida’s lack of water planning is no longer a secret”, he added.

When discussing the St. Johns River designation, Rebecca Wodder, President of American Rivers, stated, “No matter what the problem is, stealing is never an acceptable solution. Yet, instead of embracing water smart solutions like conservation and efficiency, Florida lawmakers seem set on sanctioning this river robbery. It really is unconscionable.”

Sadly, the naming of the St. Johns River as one of America’s Most Endangered Rivers™ corresponds with the 10th anniversary of the St. Johns being designated one of only 14 American Heritage Rivers in 1998. St. Johns Riverkeeper, local governments, and numerous business and citizen groups believe that removing millions of gallons of water from the St. Johns before pursuing aggressive water conservation measures is irresponsible and short-sighted public policy that will potentially cause significant harm to one of this country’s American Heritage Rivers.

About America’s Most Endangered Rivers™: Each year, American Rivers solicits nominations from thousands of river groups, environmental organizations, outdoor clubs, local governments, and taxpayer watchdogs for the America’s Most Endangered Rivers™ report. The America’s Most Endangered Rivers™ report results in thousands of supporters taking action on behalf of their beloved river. Such action produces immediate and tangible results. To see success stories visit

The full report is available at

St. Johns Riverkeeper is a non-profit grassroots organization that serves as an advocate for the St. Johns River and the communities that benefit from this tremendous resource. The Riverkeeper philosophy is rooted in a sense of public ownership of local water bodies. Our mission is to protect, preserve and restore the ecological integrity of the St. Johns River watershed for current users and future generations through advocacy and citizen action. For more information, visit


Catawba-Wateree River (North Carolina, South Carolina)
Rogue River (Oregon)
Cache La Poudre River (Colorado)
St. Lawrence River (NY & Canada)
Minnesota River (Minnesota)
St. Johns River (Florida)
Gila River (Arizona, New Mexico)
Allagash Wilderness Waterway (Maine)
Niobrara River (Wyoming, Nebraska)
Pearl River (Mississippi, Louisiana)

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Business As Usual?

Recently, Governor Charlie Crist appointed 2 more people to the Governing Board of the St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD). In case you don't know, the Governing Board is a group of politically appointed people who set the policies for the District and make the final decision on permit applications to impact wetlands and to use our groundwater (consumptive use permits - CUPs).

The two appointees are Hans G. Tanzler III of Jacksonville and Douglas C. Bournique of Vero Beach.

Tanzler, 56, is the son of former Jacksonville Mayor, Hans Tanzler, Jr., and is president of Marion Equities Inc., a family holding company. For some reason, the SJRWMD press release failed to mention that he is also president of Cypress Grove Farm that specializes in wetland tree species for wetland restoration and mitigation projects.

Bournique has been the executive vice president of the Indian River Citrus League for nearly 30 years and previously worked for the Florida Sugar Cane League.

Previously, Crist appointed Arlen Jumper who has been the former director of the Florida Sod Growers Co-op, a Board member of the Florida Turfgrass Association and has served on the Florida Citrus Commission. For the last 14 years, Jumper has owned and managed the Jones Turf Grass Farm in McCoy.

Hopefully, these gentlemen will all make decisions based on sound science and what is truly best for the St. Johns River. However, you have to question whether or not apparent conflicts of interest could compromise their ability to objectively perform their jobs, most specifically Jumper and Bournique.

For one, Jumper's company, Jones Turf Grass Farm, has a permit from the SJRWMD to withdraw up to 200 million gallons of water a year from the Floridan aquifer to irrigate 660 acres of sod. Turfgrass, especially St. Augustine grass, is one of the primary reasons that we are using over 50% of our potable water outside the home to irrigate our lawns. Can Jumper make unbiased decisions regarding permits? Will he be willing to say no to permits that represent an excessive use of our groundwater for purposes that are not in the best interest of the public or the river?

As a major player in the agricultural industry, the same questions must be asked of Bournique. In 2006, the agricultural industry used 670.1 million gallons of water a day (MGD) throughout the 18 counties in the SJRWMD. This amounts to more water used than the entire public supply (653.39 MGD). In Indian River county alone, 267.63 million gallons of water a day were used for agricultural purposes.

I guess we have to give them the benefit of the doubt and allow them to prove themselves in these extremely important decision-making positions. However, we all need to scutinize their decisions and performance, along with every other member of the Governing Board. There is too much at stake (our water, our rivers and creeks, and our wetlands), and we simply cannot afford to continue with business as usual.