Summer 2015: Quarterly Newsletter from Shannon L. Blankinship,
Duval Soil and Water Conservation District, Secretary, Florida
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Meet your Duval Soil and Water Conservation District Supervisors...
Chairman, Brian Allen
Term: 2013-2017
Evelyn Coney

Term: 2013 - 2017
Project Priority for 2015: Work with public school system to showcase Who the DSWCD is, What We do, and the Careers available in the Environmental/Agricultural sector. 
Patrick Bennett

Term: 2015 - 2019
Project Priority for 2015: Create board bylaws in order to assure uniform protocols and standards for attendance, use of board funds, duties and responsibilities. 
Shannon Blankinship

Term: 2015 - 2019
Project Priority for 2015: Provide more effective board communication for the community in order to open up dialogue, retain DSWCD accountability, and provide information through newsletters, social media, community events and informative monthly meetings. 
Public Relations Chair,
Dan Evans

Term: 2015 - 2019
Project Priority for 2015: Build and enhance the Envirothon, a problem-solving, natural resource education program for high school students.
Affiliate Board Members
Allen Moore, retired USDA District Conservationist, Soil Scientist with 43 years of agricultural experience 
Ed Wright, former NRCS Employee
Sebastian Alexander, former DSWCD board Chairman, 2013 - 2015
Know your Local Farmer! 

Farmers' Row at the Riverside Arts Market

From seasonal produce to local honey, grass-fed meats to savory herbs, RAM's robust farmers' market is the freshest place in town! Find seasonal selections from all of your local Duval County farmers as well as regional growers. Eat, Shop and Experience the Florida growing season each Saturday at the Riverside Arts Market

Every Saturday from 10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
715 Riverside Avenue., Jacksonville, FL 32204
Learn about some of our partners.... 

Association of Florida Conservation Districts

Natural Resources Conservation Service (Florida)

Duval County Agricultural Extension Service

t. Johns Riverkeeper

10,000 Trees Jax

uval County Envirothon
Duval Soil and Water Conservation District
U.S. 301 North, #108 
Baldwin, Fl, 32234

(904) 266-0088

Join us at an upcoming meeting! We meet on the 3rd Wednesday of the month at 9:00 a.m. at the Duval County Extension Office, 1010 N McDuff Avenue, Jacksonville, FL 32254

September 16, 9:00am
October 21, 9:00am
November 18, 9:00am
December is currently unscheduled

Dear Neighbor, 

Thank you for your continued interest in the Duval Soil and Water Conservation District! Getting feedback from the public is critical to the work we do.  

2015 State of the St. Johns

The 8th annual State of the St. Johns River Report Card measures Water Quality, Fisheries, Aquatic Life, and Contaminants throughout the Lower Basin of the St. Johns River. The Report is funded through the City of Jacksonville’s Environmental Protection Board and research is compiled by scientists from University of North Florida, Jacksonville University and Valdosta State University.  To prioritize protection of our water, we have to first understand where the biggest health concerns exist. Here is what the 2015 Report Card found: 

 Improving Conditions
  • Manatee populations are up. Populations will likely continue to move north because of declining water quality in south Florida. Boat impacts continue to be the largest threat to manatee survival. 
  • The endangered Wood Stork, with loss of wetland habitat in the Everglades as the primary reason for species decline, is seeing population increases in places like the Jacksonville Zoo, Pumpkin Hill Creek Preserve and Clapboard Creek - all here in north Florida.  
  • Air Emissions have improved in Jacksonville. 
  • Contaminants are worsening. Whether they are waterborne or held within the riverbed, contamination levels are not improving.
  • Tributary health continues to decline in the Lower St. Johns River Basin. This is due to several factors, but the biggest one is not prioritizing protection and restoration of our waterways. 
  • Approximately 74 invasive species are documented in the Lower St. Johns River, and the number is growing exponentially. This includes floating or submerged aquatic plants, mollusks, fish, crustaceans, amphibians, jellyfish, mammals, and reptiles originating from Central and South America, the Caribbean, Asia, and Africa. Common examples are lionfish, the Muscovy duck and the Tegu. Each carry significant health risks to our communities.  
 Questions Remain
  • If you don't measure it, you cant tell whether the problem is getting better or worse. Question Marks throughout the report indicate a lack of sufficient data for monitoring to understand trends. This symbol means we aren't tracking important water quality indicators in order to understand how to make improvements. 
  • Wetlands are being lost, but we don't know by exactly how much. 
  • Metals in our waterways are also not being monitored. Tests to measure the amount of metals suspended in our water or trapped in sediment are expensive, and budgets to measure metals have been cut.
To learn more about the 2015 Report Card trends, check out the brochure. To get the data behind each report section, go to the website and find out more. 

2015 Board Accomplishments

When Chairman, Brian Allen took office, he was clear about what he wanted to see: each supervisor and affiliate member "owning" a project or idea that can be completed in 2015. "Instead of going through a strategic planning process that would take most of the year to finish, I think we should start off by getting something done. If we can each accomplish a project in 2015 then I think we are on the right track." 

So what have we been "getting done"? 

Supervisor Dan Evans, Public Relations Chair, has taken the helm in working to expand the 2016 Envirothon. Already, this has resulted in NEW teams entering from Clay, Bradford, Nassau and Duval County! Students that participate in the Envirothon, a problem-solving, natural resource education program for high schoolers, challenge each other to learn about Aquatic Ecology, Forestry, Soils/Land Use, Wildlife, and a Current Environmental Issue as an extra curricular activity. We want as many as we can get! Contact Dan if you know a teacher or student that you think would like to create a team. Contact Brian if you are a business that would like to become a 2016 sponsor of this fantastic event! 

Supervisor Shannon Blankinship saw a need for more communication and better board accountability. This newsletter and our recently created Facebook page are ways to better communicate what we are working on. "You should know what we are working on, and where we need you!" Also, Shannon has been working to bring on a DSWCD staff member. Many districts in Florida (with a budget!) have a staff member to take minutes, distribute agendas, set up subcommittee meetings and conduct research in between meetings. While we don't have a budget, I think there is still a valuable learning lesson for students here. If you or someone you know is interested, Ask Shannon for the District Aid information. Applications are being accepted until September 15, 2015.

Supervisor Patrick Bennett, utilizing his legal expertise, saw a problem with the board when he took office. "Without bylaws, the board is essentially working from customs. For the long-term, I think Duval can do better." Patrick has been collecting rules, procedures and bylaws from districts throughout the state in order to create a framework for Duval that establishes better attendance and uniform protocols for all of our administrative matters. 
Quarterly Highlights

The board attended the annual Florida Conservation Districts conference, local growers attended the first "Specialty Crop" conference, and we passed a resolution opposing water withdrawals from the St. Johns River in central Florida to protect our water in Jacksonville. 

Association of Florida Conservation Districts  There are 58 Florida Soil and Water Conservation Districts in the state and what better way to learn together than at an annual conference? Featured presentations at the Ocala event included Florida Department of Ag and Consumer
Services on Best Management Practices for farmers, approved funding for 2014-2015 conservation projects from the Natural Resources and Conservation Service, and from the National Association of Conservation Districts on marketing and branding tools for districts. Most importantly, the conference was FREE for new elected supervisors and all three new Duval supervisors attended! 

The First Coast Specialty Crop Conference gave practical skills for strengthening local agricultural communities through workshops, lectures and hands-on farm training. Healthy soils, microgreens, pest and weed identification, farmscaping and more were the major topics. Great workshops like this are exactly what we need to help farmers here in Duval County! Contact Terra Freeman at Duval IFAS to learn more about events like this for Small Farmers and Growers. 

The board passed a resolution Opposing Water Withdrawals during our August meeting. Currently, Central Florida is proposing to remove up to 150 million gallons of water per day from the St. Johns River to supplement their population growth into 2030. By trying to find "new water" instead of working to conserve, Jacksonville will see the brunt of these impacts via increased salinity, concentrated pollution and algae blooms, and less freshwater flow. For a copy of the resolution email Shannon, and consider making your own resolution or learn more about the plan now
Upcoming Events
International Coastal Cleanup is day when people from all over the world gather along our coasts to help remove litter, trash and plastics to keep our coasts clean. Find a site in Duval near you, hosted by the Keep Jacksonville Beautiful Commission. Join us along McCoys Creek just outside of Riverside to do your part! September 19, 10am @ Hollybrook Park, 319 Cherokee St., 32254
The Girls Gone Green Conference: Exploring Animals, Environment and Health will take place at the Marine Science Research Institute at Jacksonville University. The inaugural conference will include topics on animals and agriculture, human health and environmental impacts. November 14-15, 2015
We have lots of work to do! Learn about the latest updates from the board, upcoming meetings, educational opportunities and how to get involved through our Facebook page while we continue to work on building a website. 
Join us on Facebook!
Copyright © 2015 Duval County Soil and Water Conservation District, All rights reserved.

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