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Entries in Cross Florida Barge Canal (3)

Sunday
Mar082015

'Environmental Extortion' Used in Attempt to Destroy Rodman Reservoir

 

Over the years, environmental groups have tried many tactics to destroy Rodman Reservoir, a world-class bass fishery and popular outdoor recreation area in Florida.

Their latest, however, arguably is the most creative. They have enlisted the aid of the Jacksonville business community to help them put pressure on Florida’s legislature to remove the dam on the Ocklawaha River, a tributary of the St. Johns.

Terms of their odd-couple alliance do not sit well with many, including Save Rodman Reservoir (SRR), which accuses the St. Johns Riverkeeper of using the 9,000-acre impoundment in Putnam County as ransom.

SRR spokesman Kae Andry said, “It is also very troubling and inexcusable that no one in the Putnam County Commission or Putnam County Chamber of Commerce was included in the discussions that led to this coalition of business and environmentalists. Do Palatka and Putnam County not count because they are poor?”

Veteran outdoor writer and Jacksonville resident Bob McNally added this at Jacksonville.com:

“To me, this type of political deal-making is nothing short of environmental extortion, using Rodman Reservoir as a pawn to appease those who want the dam removed, while business and political forces get their way by dredging the lower river from 40 to 47 feet.”

Business interests in Jacksonville want that dredging done so that the city’s port can accommodate new and larger mega-container ships coming through the Panama Canal. The Riverkeeper, however, threatened to sue to prevent the dredging because of environmental concerns.

Discussions followed, and the Jacksonville Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Jacksonville Port Authority, and the City of Jacksonville agreed to work with environmentalists to destroy Rodman in exchange for a go-head on dredging. In other words, taking out the impoundment will be “mitigation” for the damage done on the lower river.

One of the first to sound the alarm about this new threat was Roger Weaver, president of the Jacksonville Johns Bass Trail, a club for jon boats only. He and his members made phone calls and sent e-mails sounding the alarm, including to SRR and B.A.S.S.

“We also went to the Rally for Rodman at the dam,” he said. “And we are putting on a tournament at Kenwood boat ramp on Feb. 15, with 80 percent as prize money and 20 percent going directly to Save Rodman.”

Additionally, the 19th annual Ed Taylor SRR Bass Tournament is set for April 18 at Kenwood Landing, and, with this new attack on Rodman, robust attendance is critical for this annual fund-raiser.

The tournament is named in honor of SRR’s long-time leader, who died in late 2013. Larry Harvey, the new president admits that filling Taylor’s shoes as Rodman champion will be difficult, but he looks forward to the challenge.

“We are reorganizing many areas of Save Rodman,” he said. “We have a great board and great support people ready for us to call when the battle begins.

“The battle that I am speaking of is the battle to stop those who want to tear up this wonderful ecosystem . . . The reservoir is vital to the residents of Florida, Putnam County, and Marion County. It provides jobs, recreation, food, a beautiful place to live, and a peaceful existence.”

Additionally, he added, Rodman features abundant wetlands that act as a filter for the water before it flows through the dam and into the St. Johns River.

More than 50 years ago, Rodman was built as part of an ill-conceived Cross Florida Barge Canal, which was intended as a shortcut for ships going from the Atlantic coast to the Gulf of Mexico. The project was killed well before completion, but the reservoir on the Ocklawaha River remained.

For more than two decades, environmental groups have lobbied and petitioned for the dam to be destroyed and the river “restored.” SRR was created to defend the impoundment which has become a wildlife magnet, one of the state’s most popular recreation areas, and  a trophy bass fishery. Additionally, it appears more and more likely that reservoir will be needed for public water supply as the state’s population continues to grow.

But all of those benefits mean nothing to the St. Johns Riverkeeper, Florida Defenders of the Environment, and now, evidently, the City of Jacksonville.

(This article appeared originally in B.A.S.S. Times)

Monday
Nov042013

SRR Once Again Beats Back Threat to Florida's Rodman Reservoir

Guide Sean Rush with a Rodman largemouth.

Once more Save Rodman Reservoir, Inc. (SRR) has thwarted an attempt to destroy one of Florida’s most popular and productive bass fisheries.

This time around, environmental groups, led by Florida Defenders of the Environment and Putnam County Environmental Council, tried to convince the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to destroy the dam on the Ocklawaha River reservoir.

“The Corps is getting ready to dredge the St. Johns River in the Jacksonville area and the environmental groups wanted it to use some of that money to take out Rodman,” said Ed Taylor, SRR president.

The groups also took Corps personnel on a tour of Rodman to help make their argument. Fortunately, an SRR member saw the event, asked about it, and notified Taylor.

“I’m usually told about these things, if I’m not invited,” he laughed. “But not this time.”

In phone calls and e-mails, Taylor quickly voiced SRR’s objections to removal of the dam.

“I find it very disturbing that there was a tour of Rodman Reservoir, consisting of several government officials together with environmental groups and that we were not invited,” he wrote. “I am sure that they only gave their side of the story (which is full of false statements). Now I will give our response.”

Among them:

  • In 1991, Congress turned over all of the lands and structures pertaining to Lake Ocklawaha (Rodman) to the state of Florida.
  • Rodman is a future potable water source.
  • The reservoir has more visitors annually than all but 12 Florida state parks.
  • It prevents 50 to 60 percent of nutrients from reaching the St. Johns River. 

Additionally, guide Sean Rush said this in a letter to the Corps:

“Sometimes either by design or folly man creates something wonderful and this is clearly one of those instances.

“In spite of what you may hear, 95 percent of the people in this area want this lake retained.”

In short order, Taylor received a call from the Corps’ Eric Bush, assuring him that his agency was not going to take any action on Rodman.

“I’ve been doing this for 20 years,” Taylor said. “The environmentalists have lost every battle. When are they going to learn?”

Rodman was built during the late 1960s, as part of the ill-advised Cross Florida Barge Canal from Yankeetown to Palatka. The project finally was deauthorized in 1990, but work had been stopped long before because of environmental concerns. Rodman, however, evolved into a thriving ecosystem of its own, becoming home to many species of birds and wildlife, as well as a world-class bass fishery and popular tourist destination.

(This article appeared originally in B.A.S.S. Times.)

Sunday
Jan232011

Help Save Rodman Reservoir

Join the fun for the 15th annual Save Rodman Reservoir (SRR) Bass Fishing Tournament April 16 and help save Rodman Reservoir from being destroyed by Florida Defenders of the Environment (FDE) and their political allies.

 No conflict better demonstrates the divide between conservation and preservation than this decades-long battle regarding the fate of this world-class bass fishery and popular destination for camping, wildlife viewing, and other outdoor recreation.

Constructed on the Ocklawaha River during the 1960s, Rodman was part of the Cross Florida Barge Canal project, designed to facilitate navigation from the Atlantic to the Gulf of Mexico without going all the way around Florida.  It was a stupid idea and could have been devastating to the natural beauty and bounty of the Sunshine State.

Continued