IT'S ABOUT DAM TIME to
FREE THE OCKLAWAHA
Removing the Rodman Dam on the Ocklawaha River would bring back twenty "lost" springs that were drowned by the dam's reservoir over fifty years ago. It's the most cost-effective springs protection project in Florida. The science is irrefutable, the support is bipartisan, and the plans are ready. The only thing missing is for state legislators to provide the funding necessary to carry out the plan and restore the river and to its natural state.
Why was the dam built there anyway?
In 1968 the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built the Rodman Dam as part of the controversial Cross-Florida Barge Canal. It sounds crazy now, but the idea was a canal through the middle of the state to give ships a way to slice straight across Florida rather than go all the way around the Keys.
The fact that it would also cut into the Floridan Aquifer and make the state’s primary source of drinking water and undrinkable was one of many environmental concerns that eventually shut down the project in 1971.
But the dam remained, flooding 9,000 acres of forest beneath the reservoir, drowning 20 springs, and blocking manatees and fish from free access along the river.
If it's not needed, why is it STILL there?
Carr vs. Kirckpatrick
Marjorie Carr, a scientist who knew how damaging the canal would be, founded Florida Defenders of the Environment to stop the Cross Florida Barge Canal and won a court case to halt construction. The path that the barge canal was to take is now a preserved trail called the "Marjorie Carr Cross-Florida Greenway."
But Sen. George Kirkpatrick campaigned to keep the dam, and his influence was successful in convincing fellow legislators to refuse to approve money for its removal. The reservoir had become popular because the stumps of the trees of the drowned forest turned out to be a great place to fish for largemouth bass. Because of his work to keep the dam, it is now officially named the "Kirkpatrick" Dam.
The first primary players in the "remove the dam" and "keep the dam" fight are gone, but their names still represent the forces that fight over the what the future holds for the Ocklawaha River: The Kirkman Dam, named for the legislative forces on one side who hold the key to funding restoration, right next to the canal route's new life as the Carr Greenway hiking trail, named after the scientific and environmentalist forces speaking to let the river return to its natural state.
The Ocklawaha is a link between Silver Springs and the St Johns River and the east coast
On this map, Silver Springs is on the bottom left. The Silver River flows into the Ocklawaha, and should run unimpeded into the St Johns River, on the far right side of the map. The dam, upper center, created the "Rodman Pool" and impeded access between the riverways for manatees and fish species that depend on that route to the coast for reproduction.
If the dam were opened, 20 "lost springs" currently drowned by dammed waters would be revealed, many of which would be suitable for manatees
If the dam were opened, manatees would be able to use Silver Springs and Silver River as a warm water refuge as well as a much-needed source of food.
Fish populations have declined 90% in Silver Springs since the dam was put in place.
The dam prevents east coast manatees from freely accessing Silver River & Silver Springs
Over 86.5% of the participants in a 2022 poll by the Water Management District expressed a desire to restore a free-flowing Ocklawaha River when responding to the question – “What would you like to see happen with the Rodman Reservoir and Kirkpatrick Dam moving forward?” Only 5.9% of responses were in favor of retaining the dam and reservoir.
A plan is in place and approved, it's a plan based on "partial restoration." That is, allowing the river to return to a natural flow while keeping some of the infrastructure locals have come to depend on, like Rodman Park fishing docks and ramps.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Greenway Plan states, “The Governor and Cabinet, sitting as the Board of Trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund, have established a policy that the Ocklawaha River should be “partially restored” with FDEP as the lead agency. However, the Legislature has not appropriated funds for this purpose. If funds are made available and permits are issued, it is the intent of FDEP to undertake this restoration.”
This upcoming legislative session we will work once again to secure support from legislators to provide the funding necessary to finally remove the dam, free the Ocklawaha River, and bring back the Lost Springs.
The Florida Springs Council proud to lend our expertise and support to "Free the Ocklawaha River Coalition for Everyone" (FORCE), which includes 60 organizations, scientists, and other experts. Learn more at FreeTheOcklawaha.com