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River UPRising!

River UPRising!

5 WAYS TO TAKE ACTION 

1. Watch our River UPRising webinar!

2. Write a letter to COJ City Council President Aaron Bowman, U.S. Congressman Al Lawson, and U.S. Congressman John Rutherford. Click the names to see draft letters already created for you to modify and email or print and mail. 

3. Sign our petition.

4. Share your River Rising story: tag us and use #RiverUPRising so we can share. 

5. Attend a future Advocacy Training - stay tuned for early 2019 workshop dates!  

BACKGROUND
The St. Johns River resembles the Atlantic Ocean more than at any other time in its past: The currents are faster, the water is saltier and the tidal range can be more extreme. Hurricane Irma demonstrated that a Category 1 storm can cause a shocking 150-year flood, sending salty seawater gushing into our streets and neighborhoods due to decisions made in the past and the failure to invest in resiliency and mitigation strategies today. The combined impacts from decades of dredging, sea level rise, and outdated infrastructure demand that we take action immediately to protect our river, our homes and businesses, our families and our community. 

As the Ocean Creeps In is a Special Report written by reporters Nate Monroe and Christopher Hong of the Florida Times-Union in May 2018. This investigative report underscored how historic straightening, channelizing and dredging has impacted the St. Johns River. Based on these findings and ongoing concerns, St. Johns RIVERKEEPER enacted a series of River Rising Town Halls in 2018. These events were designed as a way to inform local citizens about rising waters and continue a dialogue about the flooding that threatens our economy, the river, our homes, businesses, recreation, and health.

Here are just some of the findings the Special Report highlighted:

• The tidal range — the difference between high tide and low tide — has increased over many decades, based on dredging, straightening and channelizing. The final 26-mile stretch of the River, beginning near downtown Jacksonville, is influenced by ocean tides and has been heavily engineered, giving it greater average depth — about 30 feet.
• When a river is dredged to a uniform depth, the natural features that can suck energy out of an incoming wave — underwater sand dunes, rocks, grass beds — are eliminated. That makes it a little more like a smooth asphalt road, and easier for storm surges to impact inland faster and further.
• Greater depth can also explain why saltwater moves farther inland. In a deep river, heavier saltwater on the bottom mixes less with the fresh top layer, meaning there is less resistance to bottom-layer saltwater as it moves inland.
• The latest 7-foot dredging project could increase water levels in a 100-year storm surge by 3 to 6 inches in the main stem of the river, and by 8 inches in areas closer to the ocean.

It was only a matter of inches that saved some neighbors from thousands of dollars in damage while causing others to flood. Locally, the Northeast Florida Regional Council has recommended that we plan for rising waters of 1’ - 3’ by 2060 and 3’ - 6’ by 2110.

RIVER RISING TOWN HALLS
In addition to flooded homes and businesses, Hurricane Irma caused severe damage to public infrastructure and left in its wake a toxic soup of sewage, chemicals, debris, and litter. All of these present immediate and future health risks of interest to the town hall audience.   

Overwhelmingly, questions were focused on issues where our city leaders have been silent. With so many unanswered questions, it is clear Jacksonville is not ready to face the challenges of the 21st Century. We need strategic leadership now to understand our vulnerabilities and to plan for a more resilient future. Discussion revealed there is an insecurity about the level of risk being accepted by the project to deepen the river. Sadly, most attendees are concerned that Jacksonville is not ready to face the next big storm.  

To learn more about our River Rising Town Hall Series, click here

At each River Rising Town Hall, we asked our audience to take action. Those actions varied depending on the location of the event. Here is our action impact: 

• More than 700 people attended eight Town Hall events. 
• Over 900 postcards were mailed to City leaders asking them to take action now to protect again the next big storm.
• Over 500 petition signatures were made asking the City of Jacksonville to demand more mitigation if the St. Johns River deep dredge is to move forward.

As a followup to these town hall events, we hosted a webinar discussing more actions that can be taken to continue this conversation. 

River Rising from Gemstone Media Inc. on Vimeo.

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