Message from Executive Director Dr. Ann Shortelle

National Rivers Month celebrates waterways we focus on daily

June 4, 2020

Sunrise over the St. Johns River at Palatka, with Memorial Bridge at left
Sunrise over the St. Johns River at Palatka, with Memorial Bridge at left.

June is National Rivers Month, a time to focus extra attention on the great rivers that have played a part in shaping America. At the St. Johns River Water Management District, we celebrate the storied St. Johns River each day as part of our core missions.

Our District namesake ― the 310-mile-long, northerly flowing St. Johns River ― is full of folklore. It has long served as a transportation route and home to many Native American villages, supported trading posts, provided food such as fish and blue crabs, and was the focus of the Highwaymen traveling artists. The St. Johns and the many other rivers throughout the District continue to support Florida’s economy, provide recreation for residents and visitors alike, and display unmatched natural beauty.

It’s also a mighty river. The river’s average daily flow (at the Jacksonville monitoring station) is 10,632 cubic feet per second (cfs) or 6,872 million gallons per day (mgd). Our partner, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), measured the river’s peak flow at this same location on Sept. 12, 2017, following Hurricane Irma, at 137,000 cfs (88,545 mgd). With USGS, we cooperatively monitor flow along the main stem of the St. Johns River at 14 stations, and the District monitors another 41 locations along the river and its headwater marshes and tributary systems. These data are critical to accomplishing our missions to protect water supplies, ensure good water quality, provide flood protection and protect natural systems.

We continue our work to help improve water quality throughout the river. At its headwaters, the District has completed one of the largest flood protection and wetland restoration projects in the world (the Upper St. Johns River Basin Project), a nationally and internationally recognized project for its magnitude and success. In the Ocklawaha River, the largest tributary to the St. Johns, lakes Apopka and Griffin are bouncing back in response to projects led by the District and our partners. These projects reduce nutrient concentrations — particularly nitrogen and phosphorus — which in turn diminishes algal blooms and helps improve water clarity. Cleaner water supports growth of submerged plants, vegetation that is critical habitat supporting a diversity of animals.

In the northern portion of the river, District cost-share projects are reducing stormwater runoff into the river in Palatka, supporting advancements in agricultural practices in the Tri-County Agricultural Area and reducing wastewater plant discharges into Doctors Lake using state-of-the-art technology. We cooperatively monitor the river through our ambient water quality monitoring program at more than 40 sites, which enables the District and partners to keep close track of our progress.

Just like you, our staff are in awe of these beautiful and important waterways whether they are collecting water quality samples, investigating aquatic plants and animals, building and evaluating projects that benefit the rivers or just taking a moment to appreciate the view.

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