About the Project

The Rodman Dam was constructed in 1968 as part of the Cross Florida Barge Canal project before the project was halted by the federal government. The damming of the Ocklawaha River flooded more than 7,500 acres of forested wetlands, 16 miles of river and at least 20 springs. It was later changed to the Kirkpatrick Dam

Benefits of restoration extend well beyond Putnam County from the headwaters of the Ocklawaha in Lake County to the estuaries of the St. Johns River in Duval County and beyond. Restoration has been identified as one of three essential components of the Silver Springs Basin Plan and an critical action to improve water quality in the St. Johns River.

Some scientists call it “the Everglades of the north” but with a cost less than one Everglades restoration project. The economic and environmental return on investment would be unprecedented.

Key Restoration Benefits

  • Improve the economies of Putnam and Marion Counties by attracting more out-of-area visitors through improving the recreational experience and attracting manatees and historic fish populations back to the Ocklawaha and Silver Springs
  • Provide more diverse and attractive recreational opportunities such as multi-day paddling experiences, striped bass fishing, bank fishing, additional camping sites and manatee viewing
  • Bring back migratory fish populations, fish diversity and volume of fish in the Ocklawaha and Silver Rivers with restored historic connection to the St. Johns River
  • Connect major wildlife areas to south and north creating contiguous wildlife corridor for bears, deer, turkeys, panthers and many other native vertebrates
  • Provide safe access and expanded manatee habitat for hundreds of manatees along the Ocklawaha River and Silver Springs
  • Conserve and showcase the cultural heritage of this historic steamboat route
  • Increase water supply by reducing evaporation off the reservoir, uncovering blocked springs and increasing flow to the St. Johns River
  • Reduce invasive and exotic aquatic plant blockages by to increasing water flow and velocity, reducing water temperature and improving water clarity
  • Restore 7,500 acres of valuable forested floodplains forest and wetlands destroyed
  • Improve 8,000 acres of wetlands downstream of the dam to the St. Johns River
  • Uncover most of the 20 natural springs now drowned due to the reservoir
  • Re-establish tributary flows to the Ocklawaha from Orange and Deep Creeks
  • Improve the entire food web in Silver, Ocklawaha and Lower St. Johns River
  • Expand habitat for almost a dozen state-listed plants

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Current Conditions

  • Putnam County and the Silver Springs community are experiencing poor economic conditions.
  • Putnam and Marion Counties’ out-of-area visitor counts are considerably lower than the state average. Out-of-area visitors spend more money a day.
  • Annual direct visitor expenditures are estimated at $6 million at the Rodman reservoir sites compared to $20 million at the natural Ocklawaha river sites.
  • Annual use of the reservoir recreation sites has been on a downward trend since 2004, while use of the Ocklawaha river sites remained steady and consistently increased over three years.
  • Trophy bass fishing has declined evidenced by fishing tournament results and bait shop closures.
  • The reservoir area is an unreliable recreational resource due to frequent aquatic weed blockages.
  • Out-date lock and dam structures currently need significant repairs estimated at $4 million.

Benefits of Partial Restoration

  • Direct visitor expenditures in the restored natural river increase by millions annually (See above).
  • Revenues from expanded recreational uses such as striped bass sport fishing, paddling, snorkeling, boating, hiking, camping and mountain-biking are expanded.
  • Percent of out-of-area visitors increase in Putnam and Marion Counties, driving receipts up.
  • Short-term jobs created include conducting river restoration and construction efforts.
  • Long-term jobs are created in the hospitality industry, guide services, recreational vehicle and equipment sales and other related areas.
  • Value of 7,500 acres of re-established forested wetlands is estimated at $50,000-$75,000 per acre due to water quality, flood protection, and habitat value they provide (FDEP mitigation value).
  • Added 150 million gallons a day of water supply created from springs uncovered and reduced evaporation have significant economic and environmental value.

Current Conditions

  • Fish diversity and quantity have declined due to loss of floodplain habitat.
  • Migrations of once-abundant native anadromous fish species are now essentially blocked.
  • Migratory fish can no long move from upstream freshwater spawning habitat to downstream estuarine nursery and feeding habitat.
  • Freshwater-tolerant coastal estuarine fishes and mobile invertebrates such as Striped Mullet, Sheepshead and Blue Crabs have lost their ability to move through the ecosystem.
  • Essential riverine fish habitat needs include uninterrupted flow, oxygenation, and natural river level fluctuations have been negatively altered by dam and artificial impoundment.
  • Original dynamic free-flowing river has been altered to a sluggish, weed-filled impoundment.

Benefits of Partial Restoration

  • Fish diversity and abundance restored in the upper Ocklawaha River and Silver Springs.
  • Once abundant fish populations access upriver spawning and trophic habitat.
  • High-quality sportfishing expanded in the river for species such as the Striped Bass and American Shad.
  • The upper river is enriched from transfer of fish eggs, larvae and excreted nutrients.
  • More migratory and transient fish available to predatory fishes, alligators, ospreys, eagles and others.
  • Natural connectivity and functionality between free-flowing river and downstream estuary is restored for species like the White and Channel Catfish, once seen through Silver Springs’ glass bottomed boats.
  • Tributary flows from Orange and Deep creeks are re-established increasing stream habitat for potentially two listed species.
  • Ecotourism expands for boaters, paddlers, and snorkelers interested in viewing fishes, including large sturgeons in the clear waters of the restored river and springs.

Current Conditions

  • One of Florida’s longest undisturbed river systems is altered impacting historic Silver Springs, the Ocklawaha, the St. Johns River and connected tributaries.
  • Acres once hosting valuable wetland forest, a diminishing habitat, are now a declining water reservoir.
  • Wildlife corridors for birds and mammals from the Ocala to the Osceola National Forest is severed.
  • The connection between the coastal estuary of the St. Johns River and the free-flowing Ocklawaha and Silver Rivers, important to migratory fish, shrimp, crabs and aquatic species, is not functioning.

Benefits of Partial Restoration

  • The river system from Silver Springs to the estuaries of the St. Johns River is thriving and productive.
  • Major conservation areas are connected from the Ocala to the Osceola National Forest.
  • Connectivity is increased due to the critical linkage of the Florida Wildlife Corridor for roaming black bears and panthers.
  • Rare and endangered birds and mammals of the cypress and mixed hardwood swamps return.
  • Habitat is increased for birds such as warblers, vireos, neotropical migrants, owls, and wood storks.
  • Up to 12 listed plant species are reintroduced or revitalized, based on USFS projections.

Current Conditions

  • Manatees have lost much of their warm water winter refuge habitat in recent years.
  • Natural spring habitat has diminished due to reduced flows from groundwater pumping and impaired water quality. Many power plants with refuge sites are being retired.
  • More manatees are attempting to find a pathway to Silver Springs through the Buckman Locks and Rodman Dam. Many have difficulty returning to open water.
  • Manatees are congregating at nearby sites such as Welaka, Salt Springs and Silver Glen Springs.
  • Sightings in the Buckman Locks area increased from 246 in 2014 to 454 in 2018
  • Manatee habitat areas, such as Blue Springs State Park, are overcrowded.

Benefits of Partial Restoration

  • A natural river gateway is provided in and out of the Ocklawaha and Silver Rivers by connecting the natural river and removing barriers obstructing manatee access.
  • Almost twenty natural springs are uncovered, a magnet for manatees.
  • A haven is created for manatees at historic Silver Springs, increasing visitor counts.
  • Pressure is taken off other site such as Blue Springs.
  • Manatees assist in consumption of invasive aquatic vegetation, reducing the need for herbicides.

Current Conditions

  • Temperature at the Rodman Reservoir is higher than the natural river.
  • Velocity on the damned portion of the Ocklawaha River is slower.
  • Stagnant water at the dam allows for sediment, nutrient and contaminant buildup.
  • All of these conditions have resulted in loss of fish and wildlife diversity and an increase in invasive aquatic plants causing frequent river and ramp blockages.
  • Public health advisories have been issued for fish caught above and below the dam.

Benefits of Partial Restoration

  • Temperature of a restored Ocklawaha is estimated to drop by almost 10 degrees.
  • Velocity of a free-flowing river will be greater.
  • Invasive aquatic weeds decrease due to reduced temperatures and nutrients, and increased flow.
  • Approximately 7,500 acres of forested wetlands are restored that were destroyed by the dam.
  • More than 8,000 acres of floodplain forest are improved between the dam and the St. Johns River.
  • Forested wetlands provide valuable nutrient and contaminant filtering and natural flood protection.
  • The food web in the Silver, Ocklawaha and St. Johns Rivers is improved by reducing undesirable bacteria in phytoplankton communities, assisting in meeting water quality standards.

Current Conditions

  • The Rodman Reservoir experiences a net loss of 5 to 10 million gallons per day of freshwater by evapotranspiration from the Rodman pool compared to a natural river corridor. This estimate does not include effects of water temperature and wind which increase the net loss of freshwater
  • Twenty known springs are inundated by the impoundment of the Rodman Reservoir.
  • Silver River discharge has decreased by approximately 35 percent since the dam was put in place largely due to groundwater pumping.
  • Water supply is too expensive to economically treat for consumption, due to contaminants from herbicides used on invasive aquatic weeds and other pollutants.

Benefits of Partial Restoration

  • Net increase in freshwater flow of 5 to 10 million gallons a day to the Lower Ocklawaha and St. Johns rivers just from reduction of evapotranspiration off the open reservoir.
  • Additional flow of 97 to 266 million gallons per day into the Ocklawaha and St. Johns Rivers from springs that are no longer drowned by the Rodman impoundment.
  • New spring flows provide some degree of thermal cooling.
  • Increased flow, temperature reduction, improved clarity, and reduced use of herbicides improves overall water quality.