Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Some Good News in St. Johns River Report Card

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Some Good News in St. Johns River Report Card

Article excerpt

Byline: Ron Littlepage

Good news about the health of the St. Johns River is rare, but last week provided some.

The 10th annual State of the Lower St. Johns River Basin report was released, and among the findings was a decline in the amount of nutrients in the river.

So take a bow if you have been careful in how you use fertilizer on your landscaping.

Go ahead and give some credit to the state Department of Environmental Protection for establishing rules, which certainly could be stronger, for reducing the amount of nitrogen and phosphorous going into the river. And get over being mad about the storm water fee you pay as a property owner in Jacksonville. Better treatment of runoff is having an impact.

But don't bask in the applause for too long. Much work still needs to be done to protect the health of the St. Johns.

The annual report notes that the amount of nitrogen in the river is still too high, and although the level of phosphorus in the river's main stem is satisfactory, that's not the case in the river's tributaries. Those are the nutrients that feed the algal blooms that can turn the river into a green, slimy mess.

The report, compiled by researchers from several colleges, including the University of North Florida and Jacksonville University, says the number of algal blooms remains too high and there has been no change in that.

The overload of nasty bacteria, especially in the river's tributaries, is still a concern. And the salinity in the river continues to increase, which can kill off submerged aquatic vegetation that is critical for the survival of the river's critters.

Although the report doesn't delve into this, the deep dredge of the river's shipping channel that JaxPort is stubbornly and carelessly pursuing will likely increase the salinity in the river even more.

The progress noted in the report is encouraging, but the need for work is evident.

The bad things that find their way into the river along its 310-mile course - the nutrients, the fecal coliform, the pesticides, the industrial chemicals - eventually end up in Jacksonville. …

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