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), Florida Southern College (FSC), and West Chester University of Pennsylvania. Over the years, this report has undergone an extensive review process by local stakeholders and an expert review panel with the expertise in various disciplines to address the multi-faceted nature of the data.

The State of the River Report was funded by the Environmental Protection Board (EPB) of the City of Jacksonville (COJ). The report comprises one component of 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 (formally dissolved in June 2011), and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). The goal of the River Accord partners is 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, based on a vast amount of recent, 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.

Primary 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 health of the river in different years. Members of the public and policymakers can use this baseline information to focus management efforts and resources on areas that need the most improvement and to gauge the success of current and future management practices. The report also provides practical guidance for anglers, boaters, and other members of the public who interact with the St. Johns River on a frequent basis.

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 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 is derived from the most recent data available and is designated as “satisfactory,” or “unsatisfactory.” In some cases, this designation is determined 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.

Where possible, the Trend is derived from statistical analyses of the best available scientific data for each indicator and reflects historical change over the period analyzed, which may range back as far as twenty years.  The Trend ratings for each indicator are designated as “conditions improving,” “unchanged,” “conditions worsening,” or “uncertain.” The Trend ratings do 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