St. Johns is One of 10 Most Endangered Rivers

17 04 2008

The St. Johns River has been named one of the 10 most endangered rivers in the country by a nonprofit group dedicated to waterway conservation.

The river landed on the Washington D.C.-based American Rivers’ list because of plans to allow the removal of up to 262 million gallons of water per day to quench Central Florida’s growing thirst.

Opponents of the St. Johns River Water Management District’s plan say the withdrawal will harm the river’s plant and wildlife. The district counters that early research indicates no such effect, but that it will make a final decision on allowing “significant withdrawals” when a two-year environmental impact study is complete.

“No matter what the problem is, stealing is never an acceptable solution,” Rebecca Wodder, American Rivers president, said in a news release. “Yet, instead of embracing water smart solutions like conservation and efficiency, Florida lawmakers seem set on sanctioning this river robbery.”

The American Rivers’ reasoning for the St. Johns making the list was a two-page advocacy paper with no scientific basis, said Alfred Canepa, the water management district’s assistant director of resource management. The proposed withdrawals would account for less than 1 percent of the river’s flow.

“The withdrawal from the St. Johns River is not the biggest danger,” Canepa said. “The biggest dangers are wastewater discharges and stormwater runoff that add pollutants and nutrient loads to the river.”

The American Rivers report will help keep the St. Johns Riverkeepers’ fight in the forefront and stir agitation among people who don’t completely understand the issues.

The issue isn’t just an environmental one but also an economic one, said Riverkeeper Neil Armingeon. He warned that millions of dollars in commercial fishing and recreational activities will be lost if the withdrawals are allowed.

“In a state with theme parks, cruise ships, and any number of other tourism-based ventures, it’s simply mind boggling that decision makers are telling those who enjoy the St. Johns to take their money elsewhere,” he said in a news release.

Duval County and Northeast Florida are improving conservation by increasing reclaimed water usage and will improve the quality of stormwater by making drainage improvements, which are funded through the new stormwater fee, said Mayor John Peyton in a news release.

Source: Jacksonville Business Journal



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