Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Delaney Hopes for Restoration 'Turning Point'

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Delaney Hopes for Restoration 'Turning Point'

Article excerpt

Byline: Steve Patterson, Times-Union staff writer

Jacksonville Mayor John Delaney yesterday outlined plans for an environmental summit described as the first step in a vast initiative to restore the health of the St. Johns River.

"This obviously is going to be a multibillion-dollar effort. But just because it's big doesn't mean it isn't doable," Delaney said after a news conference promoting the 2003 St. Johns River Summit, a free event scheduled Jan. 13-14 at the Prime Osborn Convention Center.

He said the two-day public meeting could become "a turning point" in a restoration process that would take decades.

The meeting follows the model of a 1997 forum that built public support for programs to repair the effects of pollution and development on the waterway.

The new event will address the entire 310-mile-long river. The first summit considered issues only within the river's lower basin, which ends in Duval County.

Organizers expect to mail thousands of invitations and buy advertising in newspapers from Jacksonville to Brevard County.

Administrators from the Department of Environmental Protection and the St. Johns River Water Management District joined Delaney to encourage attendance.

"Please bring everyone you know," Environmental Protection district director Ernie Frey said from a Southbank bulkhead while mullet leaped and slapped the water behind him.

Kirby Green, the water management district's executive director, said the river may become a source of drinking water and that protecting water quality will become a matter of public necessity.

City officials estimate the first summit led to $200 million in added funding for river projects, gathered from an array of federal, state and local agencies. To fully restore the river's health, "we've got to add a couple of zeros," Delaney said. …

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