Digging Deeper | Dredging the St. Johns River | St. Johns Riverkeeper

Digging Deeper | Dredging the St. Johns River | St. Johns Riverkeeper


My name’s Lisa Rinaman, I’m the St. Johns Riverkeeper. And the St. Johns Riverkeeper is is in your words? We are a
watchdog group for the St. Johns River. It’s our job to make sure the river has
an independent voice in order to defend and protect the St. Johns, its
tributaries and its springs. So Dr. white, thank you. My pleasure. Would you tell us a little bit about yourself? Well I’m Quinton White, I’m a
professor of biology of marine science at Jacksonville University, I’m the executive director of the marine science research institute which among other things
houses the St. Johns Riverkeeper. So the City of Jacksonville the Port of
Jacksonville wants to deepen the river to accommodate these larger ships. It’s a very complex economic problem because there are multiple ports along the East Coast
that want to be at 50 feet. New York is already at 50 feet and they
in fact have had to raise one of their bridges in order to be able to give air
draft so the ships can get under it. What we’re doing basically is creating
cheaper shipping to bring in goods from overseas. Of course you combine this with the goal of America to bring things back overseas to be made in the US…seems
almost counter intuitive to make it cheaper to bring them in from overseas
while you’re trying to encourage domestic production. The problem is they believe sea-level rise is out of their control and they literally added sea-level rise to the
model because it overshadows the negative impacts of the dredging so they
could do less proactive mitigation and so they’re just allowing us to become
more vulnerable in a way to save money and that is just unexcusable. …what role would dredging the river have in storm surge flooding and we did some digging around and we found a couple
researchers who had done some studies up in the Cape Fear River in North Carolina
and actually found that similar dredging work up there made that part of North
Carolina more susceptible to hurricane flooding and we talked to them and we got to know those guys a little bit and they actually they found some historical
data from the St. Johns River and they’d begun looking into it and they found
some preliminary evidence that the same effect was happening down here and so
you know that combined with some of the work that this the Army Corps of Engineers did finding that anywhere between three to six inches of increased storm surge
flooding the river in some parts the river as much as eight inches could be
attributed to this new dredging project and somehow they you know without any
sort of explanation they found that insignificant and kind of just wrote
it off and so you know that enough for us to really think we had a
story and to look a little bit more into it. I will add to that that one thing about
this story that was kind of an important revelation for us and I think it’s
something that you can take away we thought this would be a pretty
complicated question and we weren’t sure that we’d be able to figure out whether
dredging has made us more susceptible storm surge. It turned out to actually be
fairly straightforward because as Chris said the Army Corps acknowledges that
dredging does intensify storm surge. They have simply elected to ignore those
increases in this particular for this particular project. Scientists, government
scientists at the Army Corps and NOA and academic scientists like Dr. white and
independent researchers have known for a long time that our River is changing. In
some cases in single lifetimes, whether it’s salinity or tides or sea-level rise. And if we did anything that was worthwhile it was maybe just to sort
of compile some of those some of those documented changes and maybe
contextualize them a little bit in terms of the history of all the
engineering and manipulation that we’ve done to the river. Now we haven’t had much trouble lately but then again we hadn’t had any dredge dredging lately either so I imagine
when the dredge comes through we’re just gonna hang tight and see what happens. We’re not really looking forward to that time but… Tired of dealing with the Corps. I know I’ve sent a lot of letters and try to explain my thoughts and
everything and it just was fallen to deaf ears.

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