JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – There are reasons to be concerned about the health of the St. Johns River, according to the 15th annual State of the River Report, which was released Friday.
The State of the River Report summarizes the health of the river in terms of factors that affect human well-being, recreation, the economy and the environment.
The report outlines what it describes as the most important conclusions, including:
- Pollution, especially in the tributaries, threatens human health, the economy, and the ecosystems that support plants, animals and recreation. Runoff from roads, development, failing septic tanks and agriculture pollutes the lower basin. Contamination by metals, pesticides and other chemicals remains a serious concern.
- Wetlands are increasingly threatened. Urban development, agriculture and other factors all contribute to the loss of swamps, marshes and other wetlands.
- Salinity is rising in some locations, possibly causing a loss of submerged aquatic vegetation. Rising sea levels and natural factors are increasing salinity.
- Ongoing dredging by the Army Corps of Engineers could increase salinity in some locations.
- Dredging could also increase water levels in a 100-year storm surge by several inches in the main part of the river.
- Water quality in some tributaries is too poor to allow the safe consumption of fish or crabs from these streams, or to allow swimming.
- Submerged aquatic vegetation is below levels desired to support fisheries, prevent erosion, mitigate floods and provide other benefits.
- Populations of manatees, while higher than in past decades, may be threatened due to increases in boat traffic and other factors.
Among the positive takeaways of the report are:
- Water quality in the main part of the St. Johns River in Northeast Florida is generally suitable for boating, fishing and other forms of recreation.
- There are plenty of popular species of fish in the river, including redfish, trout, mullet and other species.
- Populations of well-known animals, such as bald eagles and wood storks, are healthy.
Authors of the report include researchers from Jacksonville University, the University of North Florida, Florida Southern College, and West Chester University in Pennsylvania.