Breach That Dam

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Nathan Crabbe says we should get rid of the dam and let the Ocklawaha run free as nature made it to do.  We think that is a good idea.  Please go to this link to read the entire article in the Gainesville Sun.

Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
-A river is like a life:  once taken, it cannot be brought back-


Tough tactics needed to finally kill dam

Environmental work isn’t for sissies — especially when you’re fighting to remove a dam that has been in place for nearly 50 years.

Members of Florida Defenders of the Environment are done playing nice when it comes to the Rodman Reservoir. Now they’re trying to use the legal system to force the removal of the reservoir’s dam, which blocks the natural flow of the Ocklawaha River.

“We’ve been sissies,” Bruce Kaster, an Ocala attorney involved in the effort told the Tampa Bay Times. “We haven’t really gone after it the way we should.”

The reservoir’s dam, officially called the George Kirkpatrick Dam, was built in 1968 as part of the Cross Florida Barge Canal project. Environmentalists were successful in killing that ecologically destructive project, but not before the dam and reservoir were already in place.

The final death knell for the dam should have been an agreement that came after Congress officially deauthorized the barge canal in 1990. But the dam has remained on federal land in the Ocala National Forest thanks to a series of permits that have long since expired, according to St. Augustine attorney Jane West, who filed an administrative challenge Monday.

As former Florida Gov. Buddy MacKay, who wrote the legislation killing the dam project when he was a congressman, said, “It’s an absolute outrage that everything that has been done and we still have this dam.”

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This week’s legal action was filed on behalf of Kaster and another member of Florida Defenders of the Environment, University of Florida law professor emeritus Joe Little. Kaster said proponents of removing the dam and restoring the Ocklawaha River have been too conciliatory and are now taking a more aggressive legal position, with litigation by other groups likely to follow.

Certainly the political route seems like a dead end. Newly elected state Sen. Keith Perry, R-Gainesville, is a proponent for keeping the dam. His district now includes Putnam County, where supporters of the reservoir cite the economic benefits of its use for bass fishing.

Such a stand fails to take into account the impact of the river’s restoration on ecotourism and the environment. Breaching the dam would be costly, but so is the more than $1 million annual expense of maintaining it.

Restoring the Ocklawaha’s natural flow would benefit aquatic plants and wildlife such as manatees, as well as help revive the 20-some springs along the river. Doing so would allow for expanded recreational opportunities on reclaimed and restored public lands.

Hopefully they will be able to use the legal system to finally achieve what should have been done decades ago. — This editorial was written by Gainesville Sun opinion editor Nathan Crabbe and represents the opinion of The Sun’s editorial board.

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