the America’s Great Waters Coalition added the St. Johns River and the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin in Florida to its list of Great Waters, the coalition announced this morning.
In addition, the coalition is expanding the already recognized New York/New Jersey Harbor to include the Hudson River.
“Our collective health and the health of our public lands and waterways are interconnected,” said Theresa Pierno, co-chair for the America’s Great Waters Coalition and executive vice president for the National Parks Conservation Association, in a news release.
“Damaged waterways erode property values, undermine economic vitality and threaten our quality of life,” she said.
The coalition advocates for decision-makers to support restoration efforts for America’s waterways that are critical to local economies and way of life for communities nationwide.
The announcement comes at the same time that Gov. Rick Scott approved a $70 billion state budget that includes $5.6 million to help restore the St. Johns River. He vetoed $10 million for the river last year.
“Right now we are seeing a congressional onslaught on the Clean Water Act that is regional in nature, but has implications for the rest of the country,” said Doug Siglin, co-chair for the America’s Great Waters Coalition and federal affairs director at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
“By working together, we demonstrate how an attack on one Great Water is an attack on all. Legislation aimed at degrading the Chesapeake Bay can be used in the future to harm other waterways, such as the St. Johns River and ACF River Basin,” Siglin said.
The coalition said the ACF River Basin and the St. Johns and Hudson rivers are ecologically and historically rich, and bring new geographic presence and diversity to the group.
The St. Johns River is an American Heritage River, recognized for its historical significance and was the site of one of America’s first settlements at Fort Caroline, established 50 years before Jamestown.
“The St. Johns is a national treasure and an important environmental resource. It contains one of the Florida’s largest wetland systems, flows nearly 300 miles and drains 8,800 square miles,” said Pat Northey, St. Johns River Alliance chair and vice chair of the Volusia County Council, in the news release.
“The Great Waters designation recognizes the importance of the river and we are honored to be a part of such an important coalition,” Northey said.
“While the Great Waters vary in geographic location and physical characteristics, they are plagued by similar problems such as pollution, altered water flows, habitat loss and destruction, invasive species, climate change and more,” said Adam Kolton, co-chair for the America’s Great Waters Coalition and senior director of congressional and federal affairs at the National Wildlife Federation. “Federal support for restoration work is essential for protecting these important waterways.”
America’s Great Waters include Albemarle-Pamlico Sound, Chesapeake Bay, Coastal Louisiana, Colorado River, Delaware River Basin, Everglades, Galveston Bay, Great Lakes, Gulf of Maine, Lake Champlain, Long Island Sound, Mississippi River, Missouri River, Narragansett Bay, Ohio River Basin, Puget Sound, Rio Grande, and San Francisco Bay.
The coalition said it consists of more than 70 local, regional and national organizations “that believe that speaking with a united voice and working together will help nationalize Great Waters’ priorities, and will bring more strength to each region’s restoration efforts.”