It is nonsensical to continue with this folly, there is no good reason not to breach the dam.
Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
– A river is like a life: once taken,
it cannot be brought back © Jim Tatum
Floridians have an opportunity to tell state officials to do what should have happened decades ago: Restore the Ocklawaha River by breaching the dam on the Rodman Reservoir . The St. Johns River Water Management District recently opened a public comment period, which runs through Oct. 22, to gather feedback on what should happen with the Kirkpatrick Dam and Rodman Reservoir. Visit https://bit.ly/rodmancomment to provide input.
‘It’s important that people speak out on this,’ said Elizabeth Neville, a representative of the conservation group Defenders of Wildlife . While the district website focuses on the dam and reservoir, Neville said the real issue is restoring the Ocklawaha River . The dam has impeded the river’s flow for more than 50 years, blocking the movement of aquatic life and degrading water quality.
Manatees in particular would benefit from breaching the dam.
More than 940 manatees have died in 2021 alone due to factors such as starvation from seagrass loss. But their greatest long-term threat remains the loss of warmer-water habit such as natural springs, which they need to survive the winter.
Connecting a free-flowing Ocklawaha to the St. Johns River would create a migratory route for fish and manatees from the Atlantic Ocean. Manatees would be able to travel to
the Ocklawaha’s ‘lost springs’ that were submerged due to the dam and Silver Springs, and the environmental health of the whole river system would be improved.
For years bass fishing enthusiasts have fought to keep the dam intact, with the backing of Putnam County officials who value the tourism it generates. But a restored Ocklawaha would attract more outdoor recreation than the reservoir’s declining fishery, economists have found.
American Rivers named the Ocklawaha one of America’s most endangered rivers in 2020, citing decreasing biodiversity and poor water quality due to the dam. A recent report by the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute found that blue tilapia, an invasive fish, now dominates Sliver Springs . Restoring a free-flowing Ocklawaha would bring back native species that compete with tilapia and control their population.
The Free the Ocklawaha Coalition , which includes 50 environmental, business and community groups, proposes for the dam to at least be breached. The plan would restore the river flow and levels to pre-dam conditions while limiting the alterations needed to be made to land and structures.
The dam was built as part of the Cross Florida Barge Canal, before President Richard Nixon ordered an end to the environmentally destructive project 50 years ago. Florida governors including Reubin Askew, Jeb Bush, Lawton Chiles and Charlie Crist have all advocated for the dam’s removal, to no avail…..
Readers should tell the St. Johns River Water Management District that they support such a plan during the public comment period, sending a message that the time to restore the Ocklawaha River has finally arrived.