Statements in Support of Restoration
St. Johns Riverkeeper‘s mission is to be an independent voice that defends, advocates, and activates others to protect and restore the St. Johns River. We are a privately-funded, independent and trusted voice for the St. Johns River and the public to whom it belongs.
The Ocklawaha is the largest tributary to the St. Johns River. The time has come to restore this river and its Lost Springs! Restoration of the Ocklawaha’s historic freshwater flow will provide significant ecological benefits to the St. Johns plus expand recreational and economic opportunities.
Unfortunately, the Ocklawaha and its springs and wetlands have suffered for over 45 years as a result of efforts in the 1960’s to create a quicker maritime route across Florida, the Cross Florida Barge Canal. President Nixon put a permanent end to this boondoggle project in 1971, but not before the Rodman Dam (now known as the Kirkpatrick Dam) was built across the Ocklawaha and the Rodman Pool was created. The dam resulted in the clearing and flooding of approximately 7,500 acres of floodplain forests and disruption of the normal hydrology to about 8,000 acres downstream.
St. Johns Riverkeeper has been an outspoken advocate for a breaching the Kirkpatrick Dam for decades with numerous partners. Multiple scientific studies, agencies, and independent scientists have supported the restoration of the Ocklawaha River over the last four decades. The anticipated ecological benefits to the Ocklawaha, St. Johns River, and more than 20 springs, including Silver Springs, can no longer wait.
Read more from the Fact Sheet we created, or see a full list of the studies, reports and history of this project on our website at Free the Ocklawaha.
The mission of the Florida Springs Institute is to provide a focal point for improving the understanding of springs ecology and to foster the development of science-based education and management actions needed to restore and protect springs throughout Florida. The Florida Springs Institute is a privately-funded and well-respected authority on springs science and restoration.
The Florida Springs Institute supports breaching the Kirkpatrick Dam, permanently draining the Rodman Pool, and restoring flow to the historic Ocklawaha River channel. Prior to impoundment in 1967, the Ocklawaha River was home to over 20 crystal clear springs and numerous fish and aquatic animals, including striped bass, channel catfish, and manatees. These springs are now hidden from view, flooded by the impounded river. The springs and river remain unable to flow freely as a result of the dam.
The change in ecology and hydrology of the river has also caused severe impacts to the nearby St. Johns and Silver rivers. Striped bass can no longer migrate between the Atlantic Ocean and the Silver River to spawn each year. Fewer manatees are able to clear the locks of the dam to reach the warm spring waters, critical habitat needed to maintain their body temperatures in cold weather.
Continuing impacts from the Kirkpatrick Dam and Rodman Pool will only increase pollution to our springs and rivers as flow is restricted by these man-made obstacles. A loss of biodiversity and aquatic productivity is the new normal along these rivers, if the dam is not breached. It is not too late to reverse the environmental impacts that have occurred. The time to restore the Ocklawaha River is now!
“Working to protect Florida’s environment since 1969”
Top Ten Reasons to Restore the Ocklawaha River
1. Rodman Reservoir is not a healthy ecosystem. The reservoir is choked with exotic vegetation and requires constant manipulation to avoid fish kills. (In 1985, 8.5 million dead fish; in 1987, 2 .5 million dead fish, and in October 2000, 2 million dead fish. Many smaller fish kills have gone unreported.) Management techniques to control the growth of hydrilla is currently flooding an additional 3,200+ acres of conservation lands on the Cross Florida Greenway and in the Ocala National Forest. This additional flooding represents a 34.8% increase in the size of the impoundment. Herbicides including Imazapyr, glyphosate and diquat are applied to unwanted aquatic vegetation which sometimes cause blockages in the canal and riverine sections and make boat ramps inaccessible.
2. A restored river provides greater economic opportunities. There are at least 20 natural springs now submerged under the reservoir, one of which is a second magnitude spring that could be a major tourist draw. Restoring the river will restore these springs and the potential for numerous nature-based tourism ventures, including better fishing and river access. The restoration process itself will create numerous jobs and will attract tourists and scientists interested in the process. Manatee viewing is an extremely popular eco-tourist: activity. Allowing manatees access to the river and springs, including Silver Springs, has the potential to pay big dividends.
3. Save taxpayer dollars. Currently, between $300,000 to $500,000 is spent each year to maintain the Buckman Lock, Kirkpatrick Dam, and Rodman Reservoir. The cost to breech the dam and restore the river soon be recovered through reduced maintenance costs.
4. The Ocklawaha River is better for drinking water. The St. Johns River Water Management District has determined that more water is available from a restored river. Evaporation from the shallow Rodman impoundment is approximately 35 million gallons per day (mg/d). Evaporation from a restored floodplain forest is much less and would yield an increased flow to the St. Johns River of approximately 150 mg/d. To use the reservoir as a surface water source will require greater variation in water levels that will stimulate hydrilla growth, lead to low oxygen levels, and cause fish kills.
5. Valuable wetlands will be re-established. Sixteen miles of the Ocklawaha River will be restored by breeching Rodman Dam and will allow more than 9,000 acres of one of the most threatened ecosystems in Florida, forested floodplain wetlands, to re-grow. The US Fish and Wildlife Service has concluded that fish and wildlife now at the reservoir will not be harmed by restoration and valuable habitat will take the place of the shallow, open water impoundment.
6. Endangered species will benefit. Manatees, black bear, indigo snakes, and many fish species will benefit from restoration. Florida Department of Environmental Protection studies show that the dam is degrading the St. Johns River by blocking natural water and nutrient flows and inhibits the movement of animals through the Osceola to Ocala Wildlife Corridor, one of the most vital wildlife corridors in the southeastern United States.
7. Greater fish diversity, including sport fish. At least 13 species of fish are eliminated or drastically reduced in the Ocklawaha River system because of Rodman Dam. Breeching the dam will allow eel and migratory fish like shad, striped bass, channel catfish, and mullet to access the upper parts of the river and Silver Springs. A comparison of sport fish abundance from the 1970’s to 1993 showed a decrease from 67% to 16% in Rodman impoundment Largemouth bass, specifically, dropped from 15% to 2% of the fish caught. The study concluded that 1981 was the peak year· for largemouth bass in the impoundment area. More current info is available.
8. Restoration will help restore Silver Springs. Fish populations have decreased in Silver Springs by an astounding 96% since the mid 1950’s, due mainly to the construction of Rodman Darn.
Providing access to fish, like catfish and mullet, will reduce accumulated algae at the springs that is killing vegetation and contributing to decreased water quality and overall ecosystem degradation.
9. Avoid legal conflict with the Federal government. Over one square mile of the Ocala National Forest is flooded by Rodman Reservoir and 40 % of Rodman Dam lies is on Forest service lands. The Forest Service wants to see the river restored and has refused to issue a Special Use Permit for these lands to the state of Florida. Without this permit, the state is trespassing on Federal lands.
10. As good stewards of our· natural resources, it is our responsibility to protect the environment. When mistakes are made, like the Cross Florida Barge Canal, it is up to us to make things right. Restoration of the Ocklawaha River is one of the simplest and cost effective environmental disasters to fix and we will all benefit from taking action.
Email Marion & Putnam County Commissioners & State Legislatures
315 Southeast 25th Avenue
Ocala, FL 34471-2689
Phone: (352) 732-1313
2700 Fairway Dr.
Palatka, FL 32177
4650 NW 39th Place Suite C
Gainesville, FL 32606
Phone: (352) 264-4040
P.O. Box 1429 ● Palatka, FL 32178-1429
Office: (386) 329-4104
Kirkpatrick Dam 2015 Condition Assessment Report II – 2015 Florida Department of Environmental Protection report showing the condition of the Kirkpatrick Dam. Images and listings of various damage to the structure as well as potential expense of repairs.
Ocklawaha River Restoration Fact Sheet – Fact sheet listing current conditions and restoration benefits. Created by St. Johns Riverkeeper
Submerged Springs Site Documentation – Technical Report from the St. Johns River Water Management District on submerged springs, with sites listed in the Rodman Impoundment, Ocklawaha River, Silver River and Lake Harris.
Rodman Reservoir Drawdown Technical Fact Sheet – From the St. Johns River Water Management District, this fact sheet documents the changes in spring discharge and hydrology during the 2015-2016 drawdown of the Rodman Impoundment.
Economic Importance and Public Preferences for Water Resource Management of the Ocklawaha River – University of Florida.
“Ocklawahaman” Paul Nosca: Ocklawaha River Information Page – This site, maintained by “Ocklawahaman” Paul Nosca, is an indispensable resource for information on the Ocklawaha River, Cross Florida Barge Canal, as well as for learning about the effects of the Kirkpatrick Dam and Rodman Pool on the Ocklawaha River basin.
River be dammed – Created by Matt Keene in 2014, River be dammed contains a mini-documentary, articles and multimedia elements examining the impact of the Kirkpatrick Dam on wetlands, striped bass and other wildlife, water use, and more.
Restore the Ocklawaha River – Stay up-to-date on Ocklawaha River restoration with this Facebook group.
AQUIFERious – A Facebook group for information about Florida Springs and the Floridan Aquifer.
SilverOcklawaha Blueway – John H. Hankinson Jr. Ocklawaha Legacy Fund
River be dammed – An examination of the Kirkpatrick (Rodman) Dam and its impacts on the Ocklawaha River in Florida. Produced for River be dammed, a multimedia project investigating the Ocklawaha River and its relationship with the Kirkpatrick Dam. See the full project at riverbedammed.org
Restoring the Ocklawaha (1990) – Produced in 1990 by Two-Head Video for Florida Defenders of the Environment, an environmental group established by Marjorie Carr, this video advocates for the restoration of the Ocklawaha River. Marjorie was an active environmentalist and naturalist, along with her husband, Dr. Archie Carr, known for his work in protecting sea turtles. This piece is a convincing proposal to restore the once-pristine Ocklawaha River, which was dammed up in the early 60s by the Corps of Engineers to establish a lock and canal system for cargo transportation from the Atlantic to the Gulf of Mexico. The construction was halted by President Nixon but the river was never restored. Special recognition to Bob McPeek and Tracy Collins for the original music score.
Rodman Dam: Recipe for a Boondoggle
An Ocklawaha History
Blue Springs near the Ocklawaha river before the Rodman damn, circa 1959 – Shirley Lasseter: “This shows some old family footage of a place we vacationed in the late 50’s early 60’s. It shows my sister paddling in the springs and also the ferry we had to take to get there. The rodman reservoir is drawn down regularly which exposes the old river and old springs areas. The last part of this film shows what the river and springs look liked in January 2012.”
Hidden Springs of the Ocklawaha: Cannon Springs – A paddle trip out on the Ocklawaha during the recent 2015/2016 drawdown of the Rodman Dam reveals a magical place called Cannon Springs. Video by Curtis Whitwam.