Urgent Action Alert for the Ocklawaha!

The Future of Ocklawaha River Restoration

This is a make it or break it action you can take to unite the rivers. Your online response must be completed by Oct. 22., 5 p.m.

We are at a critical juncture for the Ocklawaha River. St. Johns River Water Management District wants to hear your thoughts about breaching the Rodman/Kirkpatrick Dam to reunite the Ocklawaha, St. Johns and Silver Rivers and Silver Springs – The Great Florida Riverway. I am urging you to speak out. This may be our last great opportunity to restore this riverway for people and wildlife.

When you click the link below, it will take you to four questions and an open-ended space for other comments.

We have provided the sample questions and some possible answers and background information below the link. Be sure to review them and make notes to assist you with the survey.

Coalition Survey Submission Policy:

Free the Ocklawaha River Coalition for Everyone does not condone or encourage survey respondents creating duplicate email responses by creating new emails or using multiple emails from the same user.

Intro Question:

 Have you ever visited the Rodman/Reservoir/Kirkpatrick Dam?

The question asks yes or no. If you have been on portions of the middle or lower Ocklawaha River or driven down SR19 between Salt Springs and Palatka, you have most likely have visited or stopped at the Rodman Reservoir/Kirkpatrick Dam. The Rodman Reservoir is the impounded Ocklawaha River and extends from the dam south to Eureka. If you have been on this stretch of the Ocklawaha, you have effectively been on the reservoir because the dam backs water up in this area. The dam is off SR19 just southwest of Palatka.

Sample questions and answers to help you prepare:

1. What would you like to see happen with the Rodman Reservoir and Kirkpatrick Dam moving forward?

Please use this one or make one of your own.

  • Restoration of the Ocklawaha River by breaching the Rodman/Kirkpatrick Dam. Every day that the dam is in place, harm to the economy, water quality, and wildlife is inflicted throughout the Great Florida Riverway.

2. What is the most important piece of information that supports your position?

  1. Three rivers, Ocklawaha, Silver and St. Johns Rivers, and 50 springs are restored
  2. 20 lost springs and Silver Springs ecosystem are restored
  3. Historic fish and manatees return as breach opens creating a free-flowing river
  4. 100s of manatees gain essential warm water winter springs habitat
  5. 100-mile St. Johns River Estuary from Welaka to Palatka to Jacksonville is healthier
  6. 15,000+ acres of the Florida Wildlife Corridor are restored or enhanced for people and wildlife
  7. 150+ million gallons a day of natural flow restored to the Lower Ocklawaha and St. Johns Rivers
  8. $4-14 Million in dam repairs saved on a dam past its life expectancy
  9. Restoration creates more diverse recreation opportunities for everyone, increases visitation and adds supporting jobs.
  10. $57 million in potential flood damages avoided to downstream property owners

3. What would be your biggest concern if your desired outcome is not achieved?

  1. We miss the best opportunity to do this. State and federal funds are available, public interest is high, environmental needs are critical (manatee, water quality, wildlife habitat), and the dam is unsafe.
  2. The lower St. Johns, Ocklawaha, and Silver Rivers, 20 lost springs of the Ocklawaha and one of Florida’s largest artesian springs, Silver Springs, are not reunited and restored.
  3. Millions in taxpayers’ money are unnecessarily spent to repair the Rodman/Kirkpatrick Dam, a dam that does not provide flood protection, power, water supply or other broad public benefit. A drawdown can provide short-term safety needs as permit and plans are finalized.
  4. A storm event triggers a dam failure or overtopping resulting in potential damages to 537 property owners and up to $57 million in damages.
  5. Putnam County and Silver Springs economies lose opportunity for economic growth from increased visitation, construction, and hospitality jobs and an estimated $47 million in economic benefits over 10 years.
  6. Hundreds of manatees lose the opportunity to access essential warm water winter habitat.
  7. Historic fish populations are not regained in the Ocklawaha River and Silver Springs and exotic fish like the Blue Tilapia increase.
  8. Water quality declines further fueling invasive weed blockages, blue-green algae events, fish kills and submerged aquatic vegetation loss.
  9. Thousands of acres of forests are not restored that could provide improved wildlife habitat, water filtration, natural flood protection, cooling canopy, and recreation benefits.
  10. The 100-mile St. Johns River Estuary continues to be deprived of 150 mgd of natural water flow to improve water quality, restore fish and wildlife habitat, and reduce saltwater intrusion.

4. Is there any scenario short of fully achieving your desired outcome you could support?

Potential answers of make one of your own.

  • No. Breaching the dam is 50 years overdue. Dam safety, improved water quality and wildlife can’t wait.

OR

  • Temporarily drawing the reservoir down to 11 or 12 ft. mean sea level until restoration occurs will avoid downstream property damages from a potential dam failure and still provide continued recreational benefits. A drawdown alone does not provide significant environmental benefits for fish, manatees, water quality, water flow and an unobstructed blueway.

5. Open-ended section to add additional comments.

Think ahead and add your most compelling reasons this needs to happen now.

Sample Customizable Action Alert Template – SJRWMD Public Input Process
Limit: 2,500 characters

OPENER – FIRST PARAGRAPH: As a stakeholder who cares about Florida’s environment and wildlife, I am asking you to restore the Ocklawaha River, the heart of the Great Florida Riverway, to ensure a bright future for our state’s people and wildlife. The Great Florida Riverway is a 217-mile system of rivers and springs that flows north from the Green Swamp near Lake Apopka, is fed by Silver Springs, and continues past Palatka to the Lower St. Johns River estuary on the Atlantic Ocean. Restoration will reunite these rivers and benefit communities, economies, and ecosystems all along the Riverway. (characters: 479)

SECOND PARAGRAPH OPTIONS

GENERIC: This restoration will improve water quality and flow, support coastal resiliency, and strengthen a vital wildlife corridor. Reuniting the rivers will additionally provide essential habitat for hundreds of manatees and enhance the local economy by returning a $50 million net benefit over 10 years and removing an estimated $57 million dam safety risk, and increasing regional visitor traffic by a projected 28%. Additionally, sought-after migratory fish species such as striped bass will return, and additional bank fishing opportunities will open up along the Ocklawaha. Thank you for your consideration. (characters: 517)

MANATEES: 2021 is the deadliest year on record for manatees; unless their natural habitat is restored, we can expect more die-offs in the future. While this year’s crisis was caused in large part by starvation from loss of seagrass, the greatest long-term threat to the manatee is loss of natural warm water winter habitat. 60% of Florida’s manatees depend on power plant outfalls to keep warm in the winter – an unsustainable situation. Restoration will provide essential warm water habitat for hundreds of manatees in the Ocklawaha’s “drowned” springs and by providing access to Silver Springs. Thank you for your consideration. (characters: 521)

WATER QUALITY: This exciting restoration will improve water quality and flow by generating an additional 150 million+ gallons per day of fresh water into the St. Johns River and Estuary. This infusion of cool, clear water into the system will help to prevent harmful algal blooms, support coastal resiliency, and counter saltwater intrusion for the benefit of many species of wildlife, aquatic vegetation, and important fish and shellfish resources. Restoration will additionally revive over 15,000 acres of forested wetlands, benefitting water quality through enhanced biofiltration. Thank you for your consideration. (characters: 516)

SPRINGS: Breaching the Rodman/Kirkpatrick Dam to restore the Ocklawaha River is the most beneficial and cost-effective springs protection project in Florida today. The project uncovers 20 springs submerged by the waters of the dam and is key to restoring Silver Springs, one of the largest artesian springs in the world. Silver Springs provides approximately 66% of the flow to the Ocklawaha River. For an estimated cost of $26 million, hundreds of manatees would have essential warm water winter habitat and 150 million gallons a day of natural water flow would help restore the 100-mile lower St. Johns River. (characters: 514)

Thank you for going to the SJRWMD site to answer this crucial survey. Stay in touch at https://FreetheOcklawaha.com to keep abreast of important action alerts and news as we move into the vitally important 2022 legislative session.

For the Great Florida Riverway,

Margaret Hankinson Spontak, Chair, Free the Ocklawaha River Coalition for Everyone mspontak@FreetheOcklawaha.com

6. Demographics information

  1. County
  2. Last time you used the resource

The "resource" is the Great Florida Riverway, a 217-mile system of rivers and springs that flows north from Lake Apopka and the Green Swamp, to the Ocklawaha River, is fed by Silver Springs and the Silver River, and flows past Palatka to the St. Johns River estuary on the Atlantic Ocean.

Thus, when answering this question, note usage of all of these water bodies and adjacent land areas, including but not limited to:

  • The Ocklawaha River
  • The Rodman Reservoir
  • Ocala National Forest
  • Lake Apopka
  • The Harris Chain of Lakes
  • The Florida Trail
  • Silver Springs
  • Silver River
  • The Bartram Trail
  • Etoniah State Forest
  • The St. Johns River
  • The St. Johns River Estuary
  1. Frequency of use

If you rarely or have never used the Great Florida Riverway, note if you think you would use it if the Ocklawaha River were to be restored, revealing the Ocklawaha’s “drowned” springs, providing precious wildlife habitat, and abundant recreation opportunities.

Example answers:

  • I use the Great Florida Riverway, specifically visiting Silver Springs State Park and the Ocklawaha River, about 4 times per year.
  • I use the Great Florida Riverway by paddling on the St. Johns River once per week.
  • I do not currently use the Great Florida Riverway, but if the Ocklawaha River were restored, I would visit for paddling and manatee viewing as often as possible – at least 4 times per year.
  • I do not know when I would be able to personally visit the Great Florida Riverway, but I support restoration of the Ocklawaha River because I want to see habitat restored for hundreds of manatees and a vital connection in the Florida Wildlife Corridor that benefits panthers, black bears, and white-tailed deer.
  1. Types of use

Example answers:

  • I currently use the Great Florida Riverway for fishing, but I would fish more often if the Ocklawaha River were restored because restoration will return fish species that were lost by the dam, such as migratory striped bass and channel catfish, to the river.
  • I currently use the Great Florida Riverway for paddling, boating, and hiking, and I would visit more frequently for manatee viewing if the Ocklawaha River were restored.
  • I currently use the Great Florida Riverway by visiting Silver Springs State Park, and I would visit more often if the migratory fish species lost due to the dam were to return, specifically to view them from the glass-bottom boats.
  • If the Ocklawaha River were restored, I would use the Great Florida Riverway for paddling, manatee viewing, and fishing.
  • I support restoration of the Ocklawaha River because I would like to see the benefits to water quality and coastal resiliency by providing 150+ million gallons per day of freshwater flow to the St. Johns River and estuary.