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Monthly “River Life” column by JU’s Quinton White of MSRI debuts in Florida Times-Union

Have a look at “River Life,” a new monthly feature in the Florida Time-Union that began Friday, Nov. 30. It’s written by JU’s Quinton White, executive director of the Marine Science Research Institute, and clues readers into what’s going on with our area’s most precious natural asset: its waterways.

White plans to pen a new column that will run the last Friday of each month, with topics ranging from shrimping to hurricane impacts to manatees and dolphins to vegetation to the St. Johns River’s origins, and much more. He’ll even take readers’ questions and provide answers from the wealth of knowledge at the MSRI.

Here are some snippets from Friday’s column:

Dredging issues. The challenges of commerce and trade. Protecting a critical resource.

They’re topics making headlines today when discussing the St. Johns River, but they were just as crucial a century and more ago as it became more and more critical to the leisure and livelihood of Northeast Florida.

Welcome to River Life, a monthly column about the biology and ecology of our most vital natural asset: our local waterways.

Our goal with River Life is to share what we’ve learned at Jacksonville University’s Marine Science Research Institute about marine issues, and to answer your questions related to our waterways.

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Early sailors entered the mouth of the St. Johns cautiously because of the shifting sand and meandering channel that changed with every tide and storm. Mayport Mills on the south bank and Pilot Town on the north served as home to men who would help ships navigate the treacherous sandbars of the river. Hence the name Bar Pilots that survives today.

In the late 1890s, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began construction of a pair of granite jetties to stabilize the mouth of the river so ships could safely enter and leave. But ships still require Bar Pilots even today to enter and leave the port of Jacksonville.

Projects to improve the river for commerce began in 1892 with dredging to a depth of 15 feet. Dredging and what is now termed harbor maintenance have continued, resulting in a 42-foot channel from the mouth of the river to the Talleyrand docks, about 21 miles (there is a study being done by the Army Corps of Engineers to see whether it should be deepened even more).

Today, the St. Johns River bears little resemblance to Ribault’s Rio de May, but continues to be a critical economic and environmental asset to Florida.

To read the full column, click here