20 Year Anniversary
Save the Date!
20th Anniversary Celebration Luncheon: April 15, 2020 | Doubletree Hilton, Jax | 11:30am
For the River. For us All.
In the late 1990’s, a group of concerned local citizens recognized the need for an independent watchdog group for the St. Johns River to hold regulatory agencies and polluters accountable. They were frustrated by the declining health of the river and the lack of progress by state agencies to resolve the numerous pollution problems. As a result, this visionary team of citizen advocates decided to take back their river by launching St. Johns Riverkeeper in 2000 united around one common goal – protecting the St. Johns River.
Twenty years later, we continue to stand up for the St. Johns and provide the river with a powerful voice. Please, join us as we continue making progress towards a clean and healthy St. Johns River.
It is hardly possible to look at the current St. Johns Riverkeeper organization and picture all of the work and decisions and missteps that got us here. We got where we are by the hard work of a very dedicated and visionary group of individuals that met for the first time on October 15, 1998.
In many ways, the current organization greatly exceeds our thoughts at the time.
In other ways, the organization still has a ways to go …
– Roger Bass, Founding Board Chairman, St. Johns Riverkeeper
Mike Hollingworth hired to be first Riverkeeper – April 2001
10 Years Milestone Moment: SJRK hires its second Riverkeeper, Neil Armingeon – Feb. 2003
I fell in love with the magic of Florida waters. I knew someday I wanted to live here.
I can’t imagine doing anything else.
– Lisa Rinaman, your St. Johns Riverkeeper
20 Years of Milestone Moments
St. Johns Riverkeeper discovered a severe break in a JEA wastewater discharge pipe flowing into the Ortega River. The wastewater contained high levels of bacteria, condoms, and feminine hygiene products. As a result, the pipe replacement was expedited by 14 months, problems at the wastewater treatment facility were quickly repaired, and a settlement was reached that required JEA to fund specific environmental projects to benefit the health of the St. Johns River.
St. Johns Riverkeeper joined 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.
The Green Monster
St. Johns Riverkeeper launched 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 was produced. It documented 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. Watch the Green Monster documentary.
State of the River Report
SJRK initiated the creation of the annual Lower St. Johns River State of the River Report, a collaborative project by Jacksonville University and University of North Florida. The first State of the River Report was released in 2008 and continues today, providing a valuable tool for citizens and policymakers to assess the health status of the St. Johns. Read the 2019 River Report.
St. Johns Riverkeeper released 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 led to a Clean Water Act lawsuit against JEA for continuing violations at its Buckman and Arlington East Wastewater Treatment Facilities. A settlement agreement was eventually reached requiring JEA to develop a plan to reduce Sanitary Sewer Overflows (SSO’s) discharges and hired an independent engineering experts to analyze JEA’s sewage-reduction plan.
St. Johns Riverkeeper led 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) launched a 3-year study to better understand the impact of water withdrawals, delayed future permit decisions until completion of the study, and commited 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.
St. Johns Riverkeeper pressured the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) to finally address Georgia-Pacific’s ongoing dioxin problem. As a result, FDEP required 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 forced FDEP to issue a much more protective permit that require Georgia-Pacific to take further actions to improve the quality of its effluent.
In 2011, St. Johns Riverkeeper launched a new young professionals group, the Rising Tides in 2011. Rising Tides volunteers have hosted hundreds of fundraising and unique outreach events, empowering the next generation and the public. In 2013, they received the Environmental Achievement Award from the City of Jacksonville Environmental Protection Board for their monthly cleanups throughout the McCoys Creek Watershed, which are still happening today. Visit the Rising Tides Facebook page to learn more and get your feet wet!
Sleepy Creek Lands
Public pressure forced 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 posed significant threats to the health of Silver Springs, which resulted in a legal challenge by St. Johns Riverkeeper and Sierra Club Florida.
Save the St. Johns Tour
St. Johns RIVERKEEPER embarked on a 13-day journey of the entire 310-mile length of the St. Johns River to raise awareness about the pollution problems and urgent threats facing the St. Johns, while engaging and activating people and organizations in a collaborative campaign for the river’s protection. The following year eco-tours and paddling trips were organized throughout the St. Johns River watershed to introduce people to the wonders of the St. Johns, show support for clean water and a healthy river, and demonstrate what we stand to lose.
Troubled Waters Documentary
Troubled Waters was released to raise awareness about the significant pollution problems impacting the St. Johns River and most of Florida’s waterways, the politics that are undermining environmental protections, and the impending water crisis that Floridian’s face if we don’t act now. St. Johns Riverkeeper partnered with numerous organizations to host screenings throughout the state. The documentary features local and state politicians, scientists, and leading environmental advocates. Watch Troubled Waters documentary.
Education Boat Trip School Programs
St Johns Riverkeeper and the Duval County School Board created a partnership to provide on-the-water learning experiences for all Title I 5th-grade students in Duval County. The educational boat trips include hands-on science activities that correlate with state science standards. In 2017, SJRK launched a bi-lingual activity booklet for Spanish speaking students who participate on the boat trips. To date, over X kids have benefited from an on-the-water experience of the St. Johns River. Learn more about our unique education programs for students.
Amendment 1 Lawsuit
In 2014, Florida voters passed Amendment 1 with 75% of the vote, dedicating 33 percent of net revenue from the existing excise tax on documents to the Land Acquisition Trust Fund. Since that time, the Florida Legislature has ignored the will of the voters, repeatedly failing to appropriately allocate the funds and protect the critical natural lands that remain in our state. As a result, St. Johns Riverkeeper joined with several environmental organizations to sue the Legislature and make sure the funds are used for land conservation. The lawsuit is ongoing.
Save Julington-Durbin Creek Preserve
St. Johns Riverkeeper formed a vocal coalition of organizations and individuals that successfully protected Julington-Durbin Preserve from a developer planning to build 1400 homes in exchange for property on Black Hammock Island. Our coalition collected nearly 6,500 petitions from concerned citizens and submitted a letter to Governor Rick Scott expressing opposition to the proposed land swap and development of the Preserve. Within hours of submitting our letter, the developer announced that he was no longer pursuing his development plans for the Preserve and would work with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to sell the Black Hammock Island property to the state for conservation.
River Rising Campaign
After local officials failed to take action in the wake of Hurricane Irma, St. Johns RIVERKEEPER launched a series of River Rising Town Hall meetings to raise awareness about the impacts of dredging and rising waters, spark dialogue about what we need to do to become more resilient, and encourage our leaders to act.
The River Rising campaign was a huge success, with more than 800 people attending nine Town Hall events throughout Northeast Florida and thousands of emails and postcards sent to elected leaders asking them to take action now.
Two Jacksonville Task Forces were created that resulted in multiple code changes to provide greater protections for wetlands and low-lying areas adjacent to the River. Visit our River Rising advocacy campaign page today to learn more.
St. Johns Riverkeeper has become the leading voice in the state regarding the unsustainable management practices of sewage sludge, or biosolids.
- Over 70% of all of the sewage sludge that is permitted for land application in Florida is being disposed of in our St. Johns River Watershed.
- That represents more than 89,000 tons of sludge each year.
As a result, high concentrations of phosphorous and other pollutants are running off farm and ranch land, triggering harmful toxic algae blooms. Our advocacy efforts helped lead to a temporary moratorium by the State on the application of biosolids and a proposed rule to reduce the amount of biosolids that can be applied within the river’s watershed.
St. Johns Riverkeeper initiated the formal organization of Waterkeepers Florida, with Lisa Rinaman, your St. Johns Riverkeeper, serving as its Chair. The alliance allows the 14 Waterkeeper programs in the state to collaborate on important issues of statewide significance with a unified and more impactful voice. Visit WaterkeepersFlorida.org to learn more.