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Press Office
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 14, 2010
CONTACT: Dee Ann Miller, (850) 245-2112 office, (850) 519-2898 cellular
   

State Recognizes July as Florida Rivers Month

~Florida’s rivers play a crucial role in state’s ecological and economic health~

TALLAHASSEE - Governor Charlie Crist recently signed a proclamation honoring July as Florida Rivers Month, recognizing the importance of protecting the more than 50,000 miles of rivers and streams flowing throughout the state. Florida’s famed waterways include the historic Suwannee River made famous by folk musician Stephen Foster, the 310-mile St. Johns River, one of only a few rivers in North America that flows north, and Northwest Florida’s Apalachicola River, which helps supply 90 percent of Florida’s oysters by feeding Apalachicola Bay.

“Governor Crist’s designation of July as Florida Rivers Month comes at a perfect time,” said Jack Long, Director of the Department of Environmental Protection Southeast District. “This summer, Floridians and visitors to our state can explore all that our beautiful rivers in South Florida has to offer, and they can see why it is important to protect our waterways.”

Floridians can help protect Florida’s treasured rivers and streams by practicing water conservation habits in their homes and yards, which can be as simple as turning off the faucet while brushing or not running sprinklers on rainy days. By practicing “green” gardening techniques, such as reducing fertilizer use or spreading mulch to prevent erosion, residents can improve the quality of the waters near their homes. Residents can also help protect water quality supply, and stop polluters by reporting environmental crimes and suspicious activities at drinking water treatment plants and water towers to your local police department and the State Warning Point (1-800-320-0519).

“Rivers are part of the unique South Florida lifestyle that attracts so many residents and visitors to the Sunshine State,” said South Florida Water Management District Executive Director Carol Ann Wehle. “Florida Rivers Month is a perfect time to be reminded that we are stewards of South Florida’s waterways, from the Kissimmee and the Loxahatchee rivers to the fabled River of Grass.”

Through its nationally recognized water quality restoration program, Florida is using the best science available to identify and restore impaired rivers based on the first state law of its kind in the nation. Demonstrating stringent water quality standards, rigorous environmental permitting requirements and a strong commitment to reuse, the state has eliminated nearly 300 discharges of industrial and domestic wastewater into Florida’s rivers in the last twelve years. In addition, Florida has invested $3.7 billion since 1999 to protect the state’s rivers by cleaning up stormwater pollution and improving wastewater treatment.

In addition, since 1990, Florida has acquired more than 2.4 million acres of environmentally sensitive land to protect water quality in rivers, lakes, estuaries and streams through Florida Forever and its predecessor, P2000. The acreage includes the acquisition of 117,460 acres of natural floodplains and more than 510,000 acres of functional wetlands since July 2001.

During the summer months, residents and visitors alike can go outside and enjoy some of Florida’s most famous rivers, such as:

• The Indian River Lagoon watershed's land features date back to 420,000 years ago, shaped by the rise and fall of the sea. The basin's major waterbodies are three elongated saline lagoons: Mosquito Lagoon, the Indian River Lagoon, and the Banana River. These lagoons separate mainland Florida from a strip of barrier islands that extends north and south of two unique land features, Cape Canaveral and Merritt Island. More than 50 percent of the Florida east coast fish catch and historically 90 percent of Florida's clam harvest came from the basin. The basin is also an important producer of Florida's Indian River citrus. Biological diversity is high, with more than 4,000 animal and plant species recorded, including 36 rare and endangered animal species.

• The Loxahatchee, Florida's first federally designated National Wild and Scenic River, winds its way through Jonathan Dickinson State Park, passing under a canopy of centuries-old cypress trees. The river has a timeless beauty all its own, featuring ecological and recreational values that are unique in the United States. Along the river and within the park is coastal sand pine scrub, a biological community so rare it is designated "globally imperiled." Other habitat types found within the watershed include pinelands, hardwood hammock, freshwater marsh, wet prairie, cypress swamps, mangrove swamps, seagrass beds, tidal flats, oyster beds, xeric oak scrub and coastal dunes. These habitats support diverse biological communities including many endangered and threatened species such as the manatee and the four-petal pawpaw, a tree found only in Martin and Palm Beach counties.

• The Kissimmee River and Fisheating Creek watersheds are adjacent basins that both flow into Lake Okeechobee and are part of the greater Everglades ecosystem. The Kissimmee River Basin extends from Orlando south to Lake Okeechobee. The largest source of surface water to Lake Okeechobee, this basin is about 105 miles long and has a maximum width of 35 miles. The northern portion of the basin, referred to as the Chain of Lakes, contains many lakes, some of which are interconnected by canals. The Kissimmee River was originally a 103-mile-long shallow, meandering river that was reconfigured in the 1960s into a 56-mile-long canal (renamed C-38) for flood control. Much of it has been restored today. Already, wading bird populations in the restored river and floodplain region have more than tripled. Duck species including fulvous whistling duck, northern pintail, northern shoveler, American wigeon and ring-necked duck have returned to the floodplain after being absent during the 40-plus years that the system was channelized. The restoration project is scheduled to be complete by 2015.

To learn more Florida’s waters visit www.dep.state.fl.us or www.protectingourwater.org for watershed specific information.

To view Governor Crist’s Florida Rivers Month proclamation, visit www.dep.state.fl.us/secretary/news/2010/07/files/florida_rivers.pdf .

river with canoes

"Governor Crist’s designation of July as Florida Rivers Month comes at a perfect time."

Jack Long
Director of the Department of Environmental Protection Southeast District

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Last updated: July 19, 2010

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