Removing Dam Would Revitalize Economy

rodman

More reasons to get rid of this illegal monstrosity are outlined  below by Dr.  Steve Robitaille in the Gainesville Sun, Feb. 26, 2017.  We have several posts regarding this, among them Unauthorized Dam Is  IllegallyTrespassing On Public Land.

As per the trend lately, it takes a legal challenge to force our governmental agencies to function, and indeed the Florida Defenders of the Environment is doing exactly that.   Rodman dam is just another boondoggle we have created while trying to mess up Mother Nature, and it is way past time to remove it.

OSFR advisor Jim Gross is executive director of Florida Defenders of the Environment, and  we commend this organization for its work in restoring the Ocklawaha River.

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


Removing dam would revitalize economy

By Steve Robitaille

Special to The Sun

Ringpark robitaille
Steve Robitaille

As president of Florida Defenders of the Environment, whose history includes stopping the completion of the Cross Florida Barge Canal and advocating for restoration of a free-flowing Ocklawaha River, I am no doubt identified as someone inherently hostile to bass-fishing interests and tournaments at the Rodman dam pool.

As someone who likes to fish and who recently took his sons for a fishing adventure in the Everglades, I would like to clear up some misconceptions as to why I wish to set the Ocklawaha free again.

First, I want to see a return to the greater numbers and diversity of fish species that were once available in the river. There is a great photo of the late Lester Teuton, who was baptized on the Ocklawaha. He’s holding a string of fish the likes and size of which had virtually disappeared by the time he died in 2014 at age 95.

I know there is considerable satisfaction in pulling a prize-winning largemouth bass out of the Rodman pool. But I know trophy bass are being caught in the St. Johns River. It just seems wrong to deny folks up and down the Ocklawaha the opportunity for a good catch in return for the impoundment of a single species of trophy fish.

I know the annual Rodman fishing tournament has long been associated with a boost in the local economy, but a drive through Palatka and Putnam County reveals that the economic vitality of the region still suffers. It is in need of a more diversified ecotourism industry.

Paddle-boats once took tourists up the river to Silver Springs. Visitors fell under the spell of manatee, teaming pools of large fish and a crystal-clear Silver Springs.

A survey that the University of Florida food and resource economics department is conducting suggests the promise that a restored river would significantly increase the numbers of canoe and kayak paddlers.

Pontoon-boat tours would replace the tourist steamboats of years gone by, and hikers, bikers, birders and myriad others outdoor recreationalists would be attracted to the region and support an ever-expanding number of businesses who would cater

 

An angler waits for fish to take the bait just below the Kirkpatrick Dam at the Rodman Reservoir recreation area in 2009.

[ALAN YOUNGBLOOD/ STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER/ FILE]

to their needs.

Millennials hold the promise to a revitalized recreationally based economy in Putnam County and along the Ocklawaha watershed.

They like to fish too, but are more likely to be found in a kayak than in a bass boat. Their increased numbers are also likely to spend more money at local businesses.

Finally, if you’ve been watching the news, dams have a way of wreaking havoc on the watersheds they are intended to manage. For example, the Orville Dam near Sacramento, California, is experiencing serious engineering problems with age. Dams are expensive to maintain and upset the natural ecology everywhere they have been constructed.

The days of dams are numbered. Between 1915 and 1975, 46 dams in the U.S. came down.

Between 1976 and 2014, that number jumped to 1,040. Not a single dam was built after 2014.

A dam was removed on the Suwannee River near the Florida border after upsetting the pattern of natural fires and the hydrologic health of the Okefenokee Swamp. The use of structural water control has nearly destroyed the Florida Everglades and will cost taxpayers billions of dollars in wetlands restoration. The clock on the Rodman dam is ticking, and the inevitable cost of needed upkeep and repairs will not be covered by proceeds from bass-fishing tournaments. Also lost to the people of Florida is a large amount of freshwater that evaporates every day the Rodman pool remains in place. With freshwater supplies ever more strained in North Florida, a net loss of 5 to 10 million gallons per day for the sole purpose of fishing is an extravagance we can no longer afford. It’s simply not in the public interest of the people in our region.

So let’s find a better location for a bass-fishing tournament in Putnam County. There are potential locations along the St. Johns and Ocklawaha where some of the largest bass have been caught, and not at the expense of damming the state’s most unique river.

Florida Defenders of the Environment is committed to working with area residents, businesses and community organizations to tell our elected representatives that money misspent on barge canals and dams would now be better invested in the flow of green ecotourism dollars that a free-flowing Ocklawaha would help release.

— Steve Robitaille lives in Gainesville and is president of Florida Defenders of the Environment.

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2 Comments

  1. Kayaked old river channel yesterday Feb. 26 2017, no one was fishing on the reservoir but there were a lot of people fishing on the docks and shorelines below the dam, a few on edge of reservoir. So! Where are all these fishermen who say we need to keep the reservoir?! The “boneyard” of dead trees are clogging the spillway above the dam. Costly removal project. Open the dam up, use maintenance money for fishing acces, docks and shoreline. People are using the river, NOT the reservoir.

  2. “Junk” science and “lemming” rhetoric is used to convince the general public that the removal of Rodman Dam is ecologically imperative. However, Rodman Reservoir provides thriving aquatic and
    terrestrial habitats which serve a tremendous ecological and economic benefit to Putnam and its
    surrounding counties. Having been “hands on” involved with the issue during 1970s and 1980s as a Game and Fish Specialist with the “old” Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission, my views on the
    issue are supported by documented facts (research) as provided by personal field investigation.

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