Invasive Aquatic Weeds Temporarily Shut Down Cross Florida Barge Canal and Clog Portions of the Rodman Reservoir

Nov. 5, 2021
Contact: Margaret Spontak, Chair, Free the Ocklawaha River Coalition for Everyone

A sign just east of the Buckman Lock on the Cross Florida Barge Canal between the St. Johns and Ocklawaha rivers says, “Temporarily Closed.” An estimated 120 acres of browning out invasive aquatic weeds on the east and west sides of the canal have been sprayed with herbicide and have started the cycle of turning from green to brown before sinking to the bottom adding to the herbicide-laden muck. Some will float out into the St. Johns River, if the locks open again soon. The smell of rot is noticeable from the Rodman Campground boat ramp and over the SR19 Cross Florida Barge Canal bridge, just south of Palatka, where drivers can get a glimpse of the issue of both sides. Yellow tape blocks the Rodman Campground Boat Ramp.

A visit to the Rodman/Kirkpatrick Dam reveals another massive display of the invading plants.  “This cycle repeats itself multiple times throughout the year,” explains Karen Chadwick, owner and operator of Northstar Charters. “The herbicides include tens of thousands of dollars of diquat and other chemicals.” It has created an unreliable recreation resource for guides, fishing tournament organizers and individual anglers driving sometimes for miles to find the boat ramps blocked.

Proponents of keeping the dam have described the reservoir as a thriving ecosystem, but the damming of the Ocklawaha River significantly altered the natural water flow and habitats of the historic river and floodplain. Casey Fitzgerald, retired Assistant Water Resource Director from St. Johns River Water Management District says, “A free-flowing Ocklawaha River, reconnecting Silver Springs with the St. Johns and Ocklawaha rivers would provide cooler, clearer natural flow free of algal blooms and massive takeovers by invasive aquatic weeds.”

Fitzgerald explains, “Since the Rodman Reservoir is not a natural, self-sustaining ecosystem it creates ecological problems that require intervention. The broad, open expanse of warm and stagnant water in the reservoir promotes the explosive growth of undesirable aquatic plant species. And, without costly management requiring intensive herbicide applications and periodic drawdowns every three to four years, the Rodman pool would be in much worse shape than the pictures reveal today.

Sam Carr, Putnam County resident and avid fisherman shares, “This reservoir is not providing economic benefits to our county. The muck build-up, invasive aquatic weed issues and loss of recreational users are all signs that it is time to make this river whole again.” He added, “Gone are the days when the Rodman Reservoir is an essential part of our community’s brand.”