Celebrate our region’s estuaries
Sept. 14, 2023
The Lower St. Johns River Basin in Clay County.
Next week is National Estuaries Week (Sept. 18–23), part of a nationwide celebration sponsored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) where organizations and communities from across the country gather at their local bays, riverfronts and inlets to learn about and celebrate the importance of estuaries and how they benefit our coastal way of life.
At the St. Johns River Water Management District, we’re fortunate to have several estuaries within our 18-county service area. Our largest, the Indian River Lagoon, is officially recognized as an Estuary of National Significance through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s National Estuary Program. We also have the lower 40 miles of the St. Johns River (between Black Creek and the river’s mouth at Mayport), and many miles of waterways in the District’s Northern Coastal Basins, which includes stretches of the Nassau, St. Marys, Guana, Tolomato and Matanzas rivers that are influenced by the Atlantic Ocean.
Estuaries are often economic centers of coastal communities. These special places are where salt water and freshwater mix and mingle, creating productive, beautiful and complex water bodies.
They provide habitat for species that support more than 75 percent of U.S. commercial fishing and an even higher percentage of the recreational fish catch, according to NOAA. Millions of people visit estuaries every year to boat, swim, watch birds and other wildlife, and to fish. These areas also help protect the coastline from storm surge and offer beautiful vistas and space for recreation.
As part of our core missions work, year-round our staff focus on projects (District-led and cost-share) to restore and protect our waterways, including estuaries. This work includes creating stormwater treatment areas that capture nutrients before they can reach estuaries, dredging accumulated sediments (known as muck) that cause ecological damage, restoring coastal wetlands, planting submerged aquatic vegetation that provide fish and wildlife habitat, establishing a water quality monitoring network, and providing financial and technical support to the independent Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program (the IRL Council).