JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The St. Johns River is a critical marine “artery” that flows through parts of Duval, Nassau, St. Johns, Clay and Putnam counties.
It’s one of the few rivers in the world that flows north, and is home to a wide array of wildlife that includes a mix of fresh and saltwater marine creatures.
It’s also a critical water source for northeast Florida’s burgeoning population, but the river appears to be in a sort of crisis mode.
Back-to-back hurricanes — Matthew in 2016 and Irma in 2017 — cleared the river of its most prized natural vegetation — eelgrass.
This grass feeds manatees, fish, snakes, turtles and birds. But without the grass, the wildlife has seriously dwindled, either leaving the area or critically malnourished.
Those living on the river all their lives have never seen the normally-vibrant river so devoid of life.
Originally it was thought the grass would be able to make a comeback within one to two years.
However, St. Johns riverkeeper Lisa Rinaman says there has been virtually no comeback, at least not to where the river was five years ago.
After years of pollution, fertilizer and garbage, the hurricanes may have been the tipping point from which the St. Johns River is struggling mightily to recover.
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