Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Point of View; Riverkeeper Explains Ocklawaha Plans

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Point of View; Riverkeeper Explains Ocklawaha Plans

Article excerpt

Byline: Lisa Rinaman

The St. Johns Riverkeeper is proud to participate in the recently announced partnership to restore the Ocklawaha River, the largest tributary of the St. Johns.

We hope this collaboration will serve as a catalyst for additional action plans and efforts to protect our beloved river.

We have agreed to work with the city of Jacksonville, JAX Chamber and JaxPort to accomplish one very important goal and priority of the St. Johns Riverkeeper - the restoration of the Ocklawaha River.

The restoration has been endorsed by numerous state and federal agencies as a viable mitigation option for the proposed dredging of the St. Johns and identified as a project that needs to happen regardless of whether the harbor deepening moves forward.

In fact, Ocklawaha restoration is really the only option that has been identified that would actually provide significant ecological benefits to the St. Johns River and offset some of the adverse impacts that will occur from the deep dredge.

However, it is important to understand that the agreement is not a silver bullet, and St. Johns Riverkeeper has not withdrawn its opposition to the deepening project.

The restoration of the Ocklawaha does not satisfy all of St. Johns Riverkeeper's concerns, nor would it offset all of the impacts from dredging.

In addition, there is also no guarantee that this collaboration will be successful. That is why the St. Johns Riverkeeper will simultaneously move forward with plans to challenge the Army Corps of Engineers' Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed dredging project.

A lawsuit would likely result in more mitigation, so this gives us multiple paths to achieve our objective to fortify the St. Johns should the dredging occur.

If the agreement succeeds and Ocklawaha restoration is authorized and funded, we have agreed to withdraw our legal challenge of the impact statement. …

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