Residents push for Willow Branch Creek clean up

Unlike Willow Branch Creek, the push to get it cleaned up is not at a standstill.

Riverside resident Cathleen Murphy, whose home sits adjacent to the tidal creek, had started a petition last fall to address the cleanup remaining from a bridge project on Riverside Avenue. After receiving 524 signatures, Murphy contacted City Council in late October requesting a follow-up with the city’s Environmental Quality Division.

“I heard back from Jeneen Sanders in Councilwoman [Anna] Brosche’s office and she was very helpful,” said Murphy. “Jeneen did some research and referred me to Jodi Brooks in the Office of General Counsel. Due to the pending litigation, Jodi wasn’t able to share much information, but she listened to my concerns and suggested maybe it should be brought to Sam Mousa’s attention.”

Mousa, Chief Administrative Officer to Mayor Lenny Curry, is known for getting things done, and that’s what Murphy hopes will happen for Willow Branch Creek.

“I look forward to the day when the entire creek is finally clean so everyone can enjoy it, and the marine life and birds, who depend on the creek for food, can thrive,” said Murphy in an email to Councilwoman Brosche, among others. “Although my current focus is on Willow Branch Creek, it goes far beyond just one waterway and just one neighborhood. Maybe we can create a domino effect and shine some light on other waterways in need. I think every citizen in Jacksonville deserves clean, safe waterways.”

Some say the tidal creek leading into the St. Johns River has been a problem for many more years than just the recent few, citing overgrown banks, a crumbling bulkhead and dirty stagnant water.

“The creek has been stagnant for many years due to sedimentation from other sources and excessive growth of vegetation in portions of the creek,” said Jimmy Orth, executive director, St. Johns RIVERKEEPER. “This reduces the flow rate of the creek. This is largely observational, since I don’t think there is any flow data for the creek. Of course, rising sea levels over the years will only further reduce flow rate.”

Whatever the reason, Murphy and others who live nearby would just like to see the creek restored.

“I walked the dogs this morning and the creek was so murky I’m not even sure what color it is anymore,” said Murphy. “It’s a dark greenish-grayish-brownish stagnant liquid. It’s hard to call it ‘water’ when it looks like it does.”

City working on remedy

Melissa Long, division chief, Environmental Quality Division, provided a statement from Jason Teal, of the Office of the General Counsel, about the status of the cleanup.

“The City has graciously agreed to step up on behalf of the contractor to put together a remedy that I think all of the parties can live with, while maintaining its ability to pursue a legal action against the contractor, as well as bar the contractor from bidding on any more City work in the future,” read the statement. “We are in the process of finalizing the document that will encapsulate the terms of the settlement and the remedy to resolve the sedimentation issue.  Because the deal is only agreed upon in principle, I can’t comment on its terms at this time.”

By Kate A. Hallock
Resident Community News
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