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St. Johns River - First Phase River Study On Effects Of Surface Water Withdrawals In Central Florida PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marjorie Holt   
Tuesday, January 27 2009

St. Johns River Water Management District

News Release

Jeff Cole,Communications and Governmental Affairs Director (386) 329-4497


Area 1:Teresa Monson (904) 730-6258(Office) or (904) 545-5064 (Cellular)


First phase river study report is available online

PALATKA, Fla., Jan. 16, 2009 - The St. Johns River Water Management District today released an interim report on its cumulative impact assessment of the potential effects of surface water withdrawals from the St. Johns River in central Florida.

As part of its commitment to protect and restore water resources, the District is evaluating the potential cumulative effects of proposed surface water withdrawals on the water quality, flora, and fauna of the St. Johns River. The study's goal is to provide an objective, comprehensive, and scientifically rigorous analysis of the potential environmental effects of withdrawals of up to 262 million gallons a day. The results of the study will be used to guide permitting decisions that will determine whether, and to what extent, the river's waters can be used to supplement groundwater supplies to help meet future water needs.

The cumulative impact assessment was launched in December 2007 and is scheduled for completion in Fall 2010. The interim report documents the progress of the project during the study's first 10 months. Nearly two years of additional study and peer review by the National Research Council are needed before a final report can be prepared.

"Although the results of this report are interim and will be refined or revised in the final report, it clearly outlines the environmental issues and the methods that will be employed to examine the issues in greater depth during the second phase of the study," said Tom Bartol, the study's project manager and director of the District's Division of Resource Management Support and Environmental Management. "Also, the interim report will be used by the National Research Council in the initial phase of their peer review."

One of the major issues identified in the report is the need for additional study of the potential for salinity effects on the river in the Lower St. Johns River Basin, including impacts on commercial marine species, benthic macroinvertebrates (invertebrate animals such as mollusks, crustaceans and worms that generally are associated with bottom habitats) and underwater grasses. The interim report contains initial predictions of the potential extent of salinity changes and identifies key species that will be evaluated for potential salinity impacts, including submersed plants, blue crabs, and shrimp.

During the first phase of work, District scientists and engineers, working in collaboration with nationally recognized experts, improved and extended the District's hydrodynamic models, examined the linkages between biological resources and water levels and flow rates, and identified the suite of potential environmental effects.

In addition, data deficiencies were identified and new data collection efforts were initiated for larval fish while more intensive sampling was initiated for submersed grass beds, phytoplankton, and salinity.

Also during the first phase of work, the District contracted with outside experts of national scientific stature to participate in the study and contracted with the National Research Council for peer review. A two-day symposium was held in September 2008 to bring together the outside experts and District scientists and engineers for an exchange of information and ideas. The event was open to the public and broadcast over the Internet.

Work has begun on the second phase of the study, the peer review is under way, and staff are planning for a second symposium later this year.

In the next phase of work, hydrodynamic and hydrologic models will be used to predict physical and chemical changes from various levels of water withdrawals. These effects will be compared to the habitat requirements of key species to predict the potential biological effects. This phase of work will benefit from the input of a peer review panel convened by the National Research Council whose first meeting will occur later this month in Jacksonville.

The draft Phase I report is available on the District's Web site at



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Last Updated ( Tuesday, January 27 2009 )
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