Delaney Calls Summit to Help Cure River's Ills
Patterson, Steve, The Florida Times Union
Hoping to leverage state money for the ailing St. Johns
River, Jacksonville Mayor John Delaney yesterday called an
autumn summit to plan remedies for the river's decline.
"I think we can come up with a plan to restore the river to
its original splendor," Delaney told politicians and activists
who saw dolphins and a manatee -- as well as algae-choked grass
beds and polluted, lifeless riverbottom -- during a 2 1/2-hour
Two hundred to 300 people, from environmentalists to
industrialists, are expected to join the Nov. 25 meeting, which
will be open to the public.
The mayor and other summit organizers, including state Rep.
John Thrasher, plan to use a report from the summit as a
platform to seek state money for river projects during the 1998
"It's certainly too important an asset for us to sit by and
watch the river deteriorate, which is what's happening," said
City Council President Jim Overton, another leading player in
Yesterday, city and state scientists told VIPs on a nine-boat
flotilla the St. Johns suffers from increasing levels of
chemical nutrients. Algae feeding on the chemicals, mostly
nitrogen, can block light that's needed by underwater grass beds
where fish feed.
High nutrient levels also have been linked to outbreaks in
other states of a flesh-eating micro-organism, Pfiesteria
piscicida, suspected of causing both large fish kills and
lesions on some people exposed to contaminated water. Scientists
said last week they discovered a previously unknown organism,
similar to Pfiesteria, in the St. Johns, but don't know whether
it's dangerous to fish or people. Fish with open sores typical
of Pfiesteria have been discovered in the river this year.
Parts of the river also have high levels of lead, industrial
waste and chemicals from car exhausts.
Evidence of a problem "seems to be going up now," said Ernest
Frey, regional director of the Florida Department of
Environmental Protection. …