St. Johns Riverkeeper is Monitoring 80 Miles of the Most Threatened Habitat of the St. Johns River over Five Years

In May 2023, St. Johns RIVERKEEPER (SJRK) launched its first SAVe our River’s Grasses Expedition, seeking answers and solutions to the disappearing SAV of the St. Johns River. Over four days, SJRK surveyed an 80-mile stretch of the river between Doctors Lake and Lake George – searching for remaining grass beds, conducting water quality testing, and seeking urgently needed solutions to restore this vital habitat. SJRK is returning this week to further study the state of the river’s grasses.

Submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) is an important biological indicator of river health and is vital to the continuation of a healthy river ecosystem. SAVs are sources of refuge, oxygen, habitat, and food for many aquatic species, including the West Indian Manatee.

Ben Williams, avid fisherman and founder of Fisherman’s Dock Seafood Market, is one of the community members offering his dock for our research in St. Johns County. “All of our river communities’ economies depend on a healthy river and the health of the St. Johns depends on healthy eelgrass,” he said.

Zoe Tressel, Soraya Aidinejad, Steve Cobb and Lisa Rinaman recording data on a dockState and federal agencies have documented and acknowledged the loss in SAV, but no clear plan exists to restore the river’s lost grasses or to protect the St. Johns River Estuary from the growing stressors of SAV. As a result, St. Johns RIVERKEEPER has committed to continuing this Expedition for the next five years to investigate the case of the lost grasses and collect data over time, all while working with our river communities and state and federal agencies to do everything we can to SAVe our River’s Grasses.

Expedition findings, data collected, next steps, potential solutions and opportunities, testimonials from local residents and more from SJRK’s first Expedition in May has all been compiled in an Expedition Overview, Field Log and Story Map, available for the public to view.

“Submerged river grasses are critical to the health of our river – providing biofiltration, fish habitat, flood protection and more. Without it, the St. Johns could turn into a dead zone which is absolutely unacceptable,” urged Lisa Rinaman, the St. Johns Riverkeeper.

SJRK advocacy team in the water collecting dataThe Expedition Continues

The next Expedition will take place August 1-4. We will collect more data and continue our conversation with homeowners, anglers, river enthusiasts, business owners and scientists to better understand our river and its significance to our communities, our economy and our lives.

Aboard St. Johns RIVERKEEPER’s patrol boat, the Kingfisher, we will visit the following sites:

  • Tuesday, August 1: Clay County – Doctors Lake, St. Johns County – Fruit Cove, Colee Cove, Tocoi
  • Wednesday, August 2: Putnam County – Palatka, San Mateo
  • Thursday, August 3: Putnam County – Satsuma Spring, Welaka, Beecher Point
  • Friday, August 4: Putnam County – Drayton Island, Lake George

Brewing Up Solutions logoJoin the Conversation

On August 2 at 6 p.m., SJRK will host a community conversation at Azalea City Brewing in Downtown Palatka to discuss how we all can work together to SAVe the St. Johns. The St. Johns Riverkeeper, Lisa Rinaman, will lead the discussion with scientists who have spent their careers protecting our river.

Come aboard on this journey to SAVe the St. Johns. Our river depends on us. Together, we can make a difference.

Help us Make a Difference

Each SAVe our River’s Grasses Expedition that St. Johns RIVERKEEPER conducts costs approximately $5,000. If staff finds it necessary to collect samples for testing, these costs can go up tremendously.

Please consider a gift to help support St. Johns RIVERKEEPER’s SAVe our River’s Grasses Expeditions and SAV research so that we can continue this vital work in some of the most threatened habitat of our watershed. Choose the “Program – SAV Research” cause on our giving form if you’d like to specifically support this endeavor.