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Our First 15 Years

Fifteen Years. One River. One Voice.

St. Johns Riverkeeper began serving as an independent and trusted voice for the St. Johns River in 2000. We recently celebrated our 15-year anniversary and the progress that we have made since our inception.  Please, join us as we continue our march towards a clean and healthy St. Johns River.

Since 2000, St. Johns Riverkeeper has:

  • Responded to hundreds of pollution incidents, holding polluters and regulatory agencies accountable.
  • Led efforts to prevent construction-site runoff, fecal coliform bacteria pollution and nutrient pollution, the loss of critical wetlands and habitat, and the proposed withdrawals of water from the flow of the St. Johns River and Ocklawaha River.
  • Helped influence and shape policy that is more protective of our river’s health.
  • Provided programs and presentations to over 1,000 schools and organizations and led 177 boat trips for more than 9,100 adults and children.
  • Organized or participated in almost 500 community events and hundreds of cleanups.
  • Recorded more than 19,000 hours of volunteer service by our dedicated volunteers and logged nearly 850 boat patrols by our volunteer River Patrol.
  • Received news coverage over 2,500 times and more than 500,000 visits to our websites, raising awareness about our work and the issues impacting the river.
  • Produced quality educational resources for teachers and the public that include 3 award-winning documentaries (The Green Monster, Revenge of the River, My St. Johns River - Our Responsibility), a virtual tour website, river guidebook (Get Your Feet Wet), the River Exploration Backpack Project, and lesson plans and curriculum.
  • Received numerous awards, including the CSX Lifetime Environmental Achievement Award, Northeast Florida Regional Council’s 2006 Regional Award for Excellence in Environmental Stewardship, the Florida Wildlife Federation 2009 Water Conservationist of the Year, the Keep Jacksonville Beautiful 2013 Organization of the Year, and the 2014Ninah May Holden Cummer Award from the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens for building artful connections between people and the environment.
  • Developed the successful River Friendly Campaign to raise awareness about how individuals can reduce their impact on the health of the St. Johns by adopting river-friendly lifestyle practices. 

St. Johns Riverkeeper at 15: It's now the 'voice' of the river, The Florida-Times Union 3.17.15

Milestones

Tributary Pollution
St. Johns Riverkeeper convinces the City of Jacksonville to post health warning signs on nine of the most polluted creeks due to high levels of fecal coliform bacteria.  Read a 2002 Florida Times-Union article about this issue.  

Condom Creek
St. Johns Riverkeeper discovers a severe break in a JEA wastewater discharge pipe flowing into the Ortega River. The wastewater contains high levels of bacteria, condoms, and feminine hygiene products. As a result, the pipe replacement is expedited by 14 months, problems at the wastewater treatment facility are quickly repaired, and a settlement is reached that requires JEA to fund specific environmental projects to benefit the health of the St. Johns River.

Freedom Commerce
St. Johns Riverkeeper joins with the Sierra Club to lead the fight to save the headwaters of Julington and Pottsburg Creeks by preventing the filling of 265 acres of forested wetlands. As a result of our efforts, the developer agreed to reduce the proposed wetland impacts to less than 30 acres and to protect a significant portion of the property. As of today, none of the high-quality wetlands that were originally slated for development have been destroyed.

River Dance Study (View Study)
St. Johns Riverkeeper successfully lobbies Jacksonville Community Council, Inc. (JCCI) to study how the community can interact with the river and its tributaries for the maximum benefit of both people and nature. The “River Dance” study draws significant communitywide attention to the St. Johns River and results in the implementation or partial implementation of 7 of the 9 study recommendations.

The Green Monster
St. Johns Riverkeeper launches a successful River Friendly Yards public awareness campaign to educate homeowners about the impacts of runoff and to provide simple and easy “river-friendly” lawn maintenance and landscaping tips. As part of this campaign, The Green Monster, a television program is produced. It documents the causes and impacts of the massive algae bloom of 2005. Hosted by former Jaguar Jeff Lageman, The Green Monster aired on NBC, was nominated for 3 Emmy Awards, and received first place honors at the national Awards for Reporting on the Environment.

Compliance Report
St. Johns Riverkeeper releases its first Compliance Report, exposing numerous wastewater permit violations. Soon after its release, DEP Secretary Mike Sole announced that DEP would strengthen its penalty guidelines and would take a tougher stance against the most serious environmental violations.  The report also leads to a Clean Water Act lawsuit against JEA for continuing violations at its Buckman and Arlington East Wastewater Treatment Facilities.  A settlement agreement is eventually reached requiring JEA to develop a plan to reduce Sanitary Sewer Overflows (SSO's) discharges and hire independent engineering experts to analyze JEA’s sewage-reduction plan.

Water Wars
St. Johns Riverkeeper leads the effort to prevent plans in Central Florida to remove millions of gallons of water a day from the flow the St. Johns River and the Ocklawaha River. As a result of widespread public opposition, the St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD) launches a 3-year study to better understand the impact of water withdrawals, delays future permit decisions until completion of the study, and commits more resources and attention to water conservation and reuse programs to solve our water supply problems.

Nutrient Pollution Agreement
St. Johns Riverkeeper and several other environmental groups reach a historic settlement agreement with the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requiring the state of Florida to adopt measurable limits for the nutrient pollution that is triggering algae blooms and poisoning our waterways.

Georgia-Pacific
St. Johns Riverkeeper pressures the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) to finally address Georgia-Pacific's ongoing dioxin problem.  As a result, FDEP requires the paper mill to remove the most contaminated portion of its settling ponds from its waste stream.  While unable to stop the construction of a pipeline by Georgia-Pacific, St. Johns Riverkeeper forces FDEP to issue a much more protective permit that require Georgia-Pacific to take further actions to improve the quality of its effluent.

Sleepy Creek Lands
Public pressure forces Sleepy Creek Lands (aka Adena Springs Ranch), a cattle operation near Silver Springs, to reduce its permit request from 13.267 million gallons of water a day (mgd) to 2.38 mgd.  However, the massive project still poses significant threats to the health of Silver Springs, resulting in a legal challenge by St. Johns Riverkeeper and Sierra Club Florida.  The outcome of this project is still pending. 

Awards and Acknowledgements

  • Neil Armingeon, the St. Johns Riverkeeper, is named Folio Weekly’s 2004 Person of the Year.
  • St. Johns Riverkeeper receives the 2005 CSX Lifetime Environmental Achievement Award.
  • The Northeast Florida Regional Council presents the 2006 Regional Award for Excellence in Environmental Stewardship to Neil Armingeon.
  • The Green Monster and Revenge of the River documentaries both receive first place honors at the national Awards for Reporting on the Environment.
  • St. Johns Riverkeeper receives the 2007 Zone VIIIConservation Award from The Garden Club of America.
  • St. Johns Riverkeeper receives the Florida Wildlife Federation’s 2009 Water Conservationist of the Year award.
  • The Jacksonville Environmental Protection Board presents the 2011 Christi P. Veleta Environmental Award to Neil Armingeon.
  • The 2011 Carol and Bob Grimes Environmental Activist Award presented to Neil Armingeon.
  • St. Johns Riverkeeper receives the 2013 Keep Jacksonville Beautiful Organization Award.
  • Rising Tides, the St. Johns Riverkeeper young professionals group, receives the 2013 Environmental Achievement Award from the Jacksonville Environmental Protection Board.
  • St. Johns Riverkeeper receives the Ninah May Holden Cummer Award from the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens for building artful connections between people and the environment.
  • Folio Weekly readers vote the St. Johns Riverkeeper Best Local Environmental Activist from 2009-2014. 
  • Keep Jacksonville Beautiful presents the 2015 Jake Godbold Award to Executive Director Jimmy Orth.  

The First Ten Years

Look back and learn more about St. Johns Riverkeeper by downloading the 10 Year Commemorative Magazine that was released during our 10-Year Anniversary Celebration.

Enjoy these 2 slideshows from our first ten years. 

Watch part 1 (1997-2006)

Watch part 2 (2007-2009)

St. Johns Riverkeeper received the Florida Wildlife Federation’s 2009 Water Conservationist of the Year award.

Join the Riverkeeper

Latest Blog Posts

St. Johns River Survey Results
2017 State of the River Report
2017 State of the River Report
Lost Springs of the Ocklawaha
Lost Springs of the Ocklawaha
JAXPORT Avoids Dredging Debate
JAXPORT Avoids Dredging Debate

All blog posts

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Learn about the ecology and rich history of the St. Johns River.

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