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March 2022
Dear reader reader

Thank You Supporters!

The tireless support of people up and down The Great Florida Riverway has brought us closer to a free-flowing Ocklawaha River than we have been in decades. By bringing people closer together by focusing on common goals and what citizens gain through restoration, we have dramatically changed public opinion on this issue. There is strong, bi-partisan support for Ocklawaha restoration in Putnam and Marion counties and across the state and nation.

The coalition stands firm that restoration cannot wait. To learn what you can do in the coming months, go to FreetheOcklawaha.com Become an Advocate - freetheocklawaha.com . Look below at what has been accomplished in just six months.

Done: Ocklawaha River Restoration Support (Oct. - March)

  1. Almost 10,000 SJRWMD surveys show over 85% support restoration. Learn More
  2. Finally released 2018/2019 Rodman/Kirkpatrick Dam safety documents reconfirm the dam has serious vulnerabilities.
  3. Initial Barcelo & Company Poll in Putnam and Marion Counties demonstrates 77% support for breaching the dam. Read More
  4. Florida TaxWatch recommends breaching the dam. Read Here.
  5. More in-depth Barcelo & Company Putnam County Poll indicates 75% support, 7% oppose restoration. Read Here
  6. Dozens of news stories and opinion pieces across the state support restoration. In the News - freetheocklawaha.com
  7. Thousands of advocates send letters to the Governor and legislature.

Action Needed: Ocklawaha Restoration Execution

The Governor has the authority and the funding to make this happen.

  • Millions were approved in the 2022-2023 budget that are appropriate for Ocklawaha River Restoration.
  • The land is in public ownership, restoration plan and permit application are pending, and federal environmental impact statement already completed.
  • FDEP Dam Safety Assessments and Emergency Action Plans released to date demonstrate the urgent need for action.
  • Strong public support has been proven.

Urgent need for restoration NOW:

  • Protects 539 properties, $57 million in property, and lives from a dangerous dam past its life expectancy
  • Helps recover the health of the lower St. Johns River fishery with more than 90% of eelgrass gone
  • Generates 150+ million gallons a day of freshwater flow to the lower St. Johns from 20 uncovered springs currently submerged by the reservoir
  • Provides hundreds of manatees essential warm-water winter habitat
  • Improves health of Silver Springs and the nearby economy
  • Restores 7500+ acres of forested wetlands in the Florida Wildlife Corridor

Lower St. Johns River: Most of the Eelgrass has Disappeared

Ocklawaha Restoration Would Help Recovery

Seagrass expert Dr. Bob Virnstein shared at last week’s SJRWMD Board Meeting that more than 90% of submerged vegetation has been lost on the St. Johns River north of Lake George including Welaka, Palatka and Green Cove Springs. Most of the plants are eelgrass. He explained that due to unusually persistent dark water conditions, not enough light is reaching plants on the bottom. The dark water comes from multiple sources. Saltwater intrusion is also a factor with grass losses in Duval, Clay and St. Johns Counties.

Eelgrass is necessary for fish and shellfish growth. This 100-mile lower St. Johns River estuary supports multi-million-dollar commercial crab, shrimp and sport fishing industries. Eelgrass also provides valuable food for manatees.

An extensive, coordinated effort by SJRWMD, other agencies, local governments and non-profit organizations is needed to pinpoint the causes and remedies. Dr. Virnstein notes that, “One implementable solution that would certainly help eelgrass recover is breaching the Rodman/Kirkpatrick Dam to restore the natural flow of more than 150 million gallons a day of additional clear spring-fed water to the St. Johns River, improving water clarity and sunlight penetration.”
Eel Grass in Trouble-FB

FDEP Says 2021 Dam Assessment to Be Released by March 18

Ugly-Dam
The Rodman/Kirkpatrick Dam is past its life expectancy and previous assessments and emergency action plans have indicated serious issues and vulnerabilities. Release of the 2021 Kirkpatrick Dam and Spillway Condition Assessment has been delayed by Florida Department of Environmental Protection until March 18, 2022. The report would typically have been released in fall of 2021. Piney Point and the Surfside condos demonstrated how delaying infrastructure decisions can be costly and even lethal. A drawdown of the Rodman Reservoir (similar to drawdowns every 3-4 years) could provide immediate relief. The long-term and economically and environmentally prudent decision is to breach the Rodman/Kirkpatrick Dam.

It's time for the 2021 Kirkpatrick Dam Safety Assessment to be released without redaction so that those effected, state leadership and taxpayers, can make sound decisions for the safety of people and property.

Recently Released

Additional Barcelo Putnam County Polling: Rodman Dam

Internationally recognized pollster Barcelo & Company released additional Putnam County polling data this month focused on the question of breaching the Rodman/Kirkpatrick Dam. The pollster expanded the previous Marion and Putnam county poll through a Putnam County focused poll. Barcelo now has a total sample of 486 interviews with Putnam County residents most likely to vote with a +/- 4% margin of error with a 95% confidence factor. The primary findings were:

  1. Nearly three-quarters (74%) favor restoring the natural flow of the in order to benefit Silver Springs, the Ocklawaha and St. Johns Rivers.
  2. Only 7% of likely voters oppose the natural flow restoration.
  3. Support is broadly positive regardless of party affiliation: among Republicans 75%, among Democrats 73% and among Independent/NPA voters 80%.
See the Putnam County only results here.
Free The Ocklawaha Coalition. For a list of our members click here .
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For more information go to Freetheocklawaha.com