1. Background of the Lower St. Johns River Basin

1.1. Introduction to the River Report

This State of the River Report for the Lower St. Johns River Basin was written by a team of academic researchers from Jacksonville University (JU), the University of North Florida (UNF), and Florida Southern College (FSC). Over the years, this report has undergone an extensive review process including local stakeholders and an expert review panel with the expertise and experience in various disciplines to address the multi-faceted nature of the data.

The State of the River Report was funded through the Environmental Protection Board (EPB) of the City of Jacksonville (COJ), Florida, and the River Branch Foundation. The report comprises one component of a range of far-reaching efforts initiated by Jacksonville Mayors John Delaney and John Peyton and continued by the River Accord partners, including COJ, the St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD), JEA, Jacksonville Water and Sewer Expansion Authority (WSEA; formally dissolved in June 2011), and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to inform and educate the public regarding the status of the Lower St. Johns River Basin (LSJRB), Florida (Figure 1.1).

1.1.1. Purpose

The State of the River Report’s purpose is to be a clear, concise document that evaluates the current ecological status of the Lower St. Johns River Basin (LSJRB), based on a vast amount of scientific information.

1.1.2. Goals and Objectives

The overarching goal of the State of the River Report is to summarize the status and trends in the health of the LSJRB through comprehensive, unbiased, and scientific methods.

The tangible objectives of the report project include the design, creation, and distribution of a concise, easy-to-understand, and graphically pleasing document for the general public that explains the current health of the LSJRB in terms of water quality, fisheries, aquatic life, and contaminants.

Secondary objectives include the production of a baseline record of the status of the St. Johns River that can serve as a benchmark for the public to compare the future health of the river. This baseline information can be used by the public and policymakers to focus management efforts and resources on areas that need the most improvement first and to gauge the success of current and future management practices

1.1.3. River Health Indicators and Evaluation

The State of the River Report describes the health of the LSJRB based on a number of broad indicators in four major categories:

The State of the River Report is based on the best available data for each river health indicator listed above. How each indicator contributes to, or signals, overall river health is discussed in terms of its 1) Current Status, and 2) the Trend over time.

The Current Status for each indicator is based on the most recent data and is designated as “satisfactory” or “unsatisfactory.” In some cases, this designation is defined by whether the indicator meets state and federal minimum standards and guidelines, and in other cases, the designation is based on alternative criteria as described in the sections.

The Trend is derived, where possible, from statistical analyses of the best available scientific data for each indicator and reflects historical change over the time period analyzed. The Trend ratings for each indicator are designated as “conditions improving,” “conditions stable,” “conditions worsening,” or “uncertain.” The Trend rating does not consider initiated or planned management efforts that have not yet had a direct impact on the indicator. Statistical tests to indicate trends vary with each indicator and are described in each section.

Map of Northeast Florida
Figure 1.1 Geopolitical Map of the Lower St. Johns River Basin, Florida (basin shaded in green, SJRWMD 2018a).

Water Quality, Fisheries, Aquatic Life, & Contaminants