Executes Florida's Largest Current Springs Restoration Project.
Three Rivers, Fifty Springs - One Solution
The Great Florida Riverway is comprised of more than fifty springs - 30 springs of Silver Springs, the 20 submerged springs of the Ocklawaha River and a few springs in Lake Apopka and the Harris Chain of Lakes. Restoration restores the 20 drowned springs and the health of Silver Springs.
Silver Springs cannot be fully restored without a free-flowing Ocklawaha River.
Silver Springs provides approximately 66 percent of the flow to the Ocklawaha River. The Silver Springs Basin Plan identified restoration of the Ocklawaha, reconnecting and restoring the Silver and Ocklawaha Rivers, as one of three critical goals to improving the health of Silver Springs. The loss of the historic fish and other aquatic wildlife of Silver Springs has damaged the ecosystem. Bringing back the great schools of mullet will knock back the toxic brown algae covering the once green eel grass. Returning historic fish populations will reduce the invasive fish populations rapidly increasing at Silver Springs. Recent fish studies confirm the impacts of the Rodman/Kirkpatrick Dam continue today.
Twenty restored springs would deliver 150 million gallons a day of natural downstream flow.
Above the surface, the loss of acres of forest habitat and destruction of 16 miles of the natural river from construction of the Rodman/Kirkpatrick Dam was obvious. Below the surface, the dam drowned 20 Ocklawaha springs. Breaching the Rodman/Kirkpatrick Dam would restore those springs and reduce evaporation from the reservoir creating over 150 million gallons a day of natural water flow to the lower Ocklawaha and St. Johns Rivers. This is more than the daily water use for the City of Jacksonville. Scientists estimate that these twenty lost springs and Orange Springs once provided one-third of the flow of the Ocklawaha River before it entered the St. Johns River. Resumed natural water flow from the 20 springs would create a clearer, cooler river system. This would improve the habitat and fishery, reduce conditions for blue-green algae, and promote submerged aquatic vegetation growth.
Manatees would have expanded warm water winter habitat.
By drowning the springs, the dam made twenty springs inaccessible for endangered manatees. It blocked natural access to those springs and Silver Springs, both of which had important warm-water, winter habitat. The current Manatee Warm Water Action Plan includes some of the larger Ocklawaha River springs (Cannon, Strange, Hasty Greene, Marion Blue Springs, Garfish and others) as potential habitat to meet the long-term needs of Florida’s manatee population.
Springs recovery would have positive economic impacts on local communities.
Seven of the 20 lost springs have more substantial spring flows and are near the shore providing potential for recreational attractions once the Ocklawaha River is restored. Economists project that just two of those springs with added infrastructure could generate 30,000 visitors and $3 million annually. That does not include the economic gain if Silver Springs becomes the largest inland manatee viewing sight in the state. Hundreds of more manatees could make their winter home at several of the Ocklawaha lost springs and Silver Springs.
Watch the documentary Lost Springs.