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~Stakeholders provide annual update on status of restoration plans at Lower St. Johns River Tributaries Annual Meeting~

JACKSONVILLE – Florida Department of Environmental Protection staff today met with local stakeholders to discuss annual progress on the restoration plans for 25 tributaries in the Lower St. Johns River basin. The Department, along with the Florida Department of Transportation, City of Jacksonville, JEA, Duval County Health Department, CIty of Atlantic Beach, City of Jacksonville Beach, City of Neptune Beach, and Naval Station Mayport reviewed updates on water quality trends, project successes and future direction.

The Department verified various tributaries in the Lower St. Johns River basin as impaired for fecal coliform, a bacteria that indicates the possible presence of human or animal waste. The Department adopted restoration goals establishing the fecal coliform targets necessary to achieve good water quality in the 25 tributaries.

“Local stakeholders have made significant investments in restoration projects in this basin, and we are seeing results,” said Tom Frick, Director of the Division of Environmental Assessment and Restoration. “But the job isn’t finished and the Department and every other stakeholder must remain committed to ensuring that full restoration is achieved.”

The Department adopted two separate restoration plans, called Basin Management Action Plans, which identified water quality projects, funding resources and an implementation schedule necessary to bring the tributaries in the watershed back to health. Each BMAP set the objective of at least a 50 percent reduction in fecal coliform counts by 2014.  

The first restoration plan, adopted in 2009, includes 10 tributaries. Newcastle Creek, Hogan's Creek, Miramar Creek, Deer Creek, and Goodbys Creek have exceeded the 50 percent fecal coliform reduction goal. Miller Creek, Big Fishweir Creek, Terrapin Creek, and Open Creek are also improving, while Butcher Pen Creek has experienced a slight decline in water quality.

Under the second plan, adopted in 2010, McCoy Creek, Fishing Creek, Deep Bottom Creek, Moncrief Creek, Blockhouse Creek, Cormorant Brach, Wills Branch, Sherman Creek, Greenfield Creek, Pottsburg Creek, Middle Trout River, and Lower Trout River have all exceeded the 50 percent fecal coliform reduction goal. Craig Creek, Hopkins Creek, and Williamson Creek are also improving.

All local governments continue to implement wastewater and stormwater infrastructure maintenance programs in accordance with the restoration plans, thereby reducing bacteria problems resulting from faulty systems. Other successfully completed projects presented at today’s meeting included:

  • Jacksonville’s extensive drainage improvements in the Butcher Pen Creek, Miramar Creek, Big Fishweir Creek, Deer Creek, Goodbys Creek, Open Creek, Craig Creek, McCoy Creek, Williamson Creek, Fishing Creek, Wills Branch, Sherman Creek, Pottsburg Creek, and the Middle and Lower Trout river watersheds. 
  • Atlantic Beach’s sewer line upgrades and manhole rehabilitation on East Coast Drive, Ocean Boulevard, and Beach Avenue between 12th and 15th Streets. 
  • Neptune Beach’s stormwater repairs on 5th Street, culvert replacement on South Street, and sanitary sewer rehabilitation on Forest Avenue.
  • The Duval County Health Department’s intensive inspection program for septic tanks in the Craig Creek, McCoy Creek, Sherman Creek, and Greenfield Creek watersheds. 
  • Naval Station Mayport’s sanitary sewer evaluation, including an assessment of lift stations, inspection and mapping of sanitary manholes, smoke testing the entire collection system, and video inspection and cleaning of all gravity sanitary lines six inches or greater.

Stakeholders also discussed future restoration actions, focusing on new laboratory tools that will allow Department scientists to quickly identify whether fecal coliform bacteria are related to humans. The new testing methods use DNA analyses of bacteria to pinpoint human waste, and they are being refined to fingerprint other sources. Once the causes of the bacteria problems are known, water managers can more effectively target sources and design optimal restoration strategies.