Survey results are in: the recent survey conducted by St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD) received overwhelming support for breaching the Kirkpatrick Dam (aka Rodman Dam) and restoring the Ocklawaha River. A professional data analyst was enlisted to help review the survey response data.
Over 86.5% of the participants expressed a desire to restore a free-flowing Ocklawaha River when responding to the question – “What would you like to see happen with the Rodman Reservoir and Kirkpatrick Dam moving forward?” Only 5.9% of responses were in favor of retaining the dam and reservoir. The remaining responses did not reflect a clear pro-restoration or pro-dam and reservoir position.
“In addition to the extremely positive pro-restoration responses survey-wide, we were very pleased to see the strong pro-restoration results from Marion and Putnam counties, two counties bordering the Rodman Reservoir and Ocklawaha River,” said Margaret Spontak, Chair of the Free the Ocklawaha River Coalition for Everyone (FORCE).
The initial analysis revealed that 63.6% of survey respondents in Putnam County indicated they supported restoration of the Ocklawaha River with 19.5% supporting retention of the dam and reservoir. In Marion County, 75.3% of respondents logged in pro-restoration answers with 15.6% responding in support of maintaining the dam and reservoir.
According to the SJRWMD press release, the process was designed “to collect feedback from local community members and stakeholders regarding the Kirkpatrick Dam and Rodman Reservoir” and “to help inform future key decisions regarding the best path forward — continued management and operation of the structures or an alternative restoration strategy.” The survey requested written answers to four questions and resulted in 10,482 submitted responses. SJRWMD posted the raw online survey results at https://www.sjrwmd.com/rodman.
“Diverse stakeholders from Ocala to Welaka to Palatka to Jacksonville and beyond are uniting to champion the large-scale ecological and economic potential of reuniting Silver Springs, the Ocklawaha and the St. Johns,” stated Lisa Rinaman, the St. Johns Riverkeeper.
Demonstrating statewide and national interest, survey respondents came from sixty-six of Florida’s sixty-seven counties plus 17.23% or 1,327 total surveys submitted came from out-of-state. National stakeholder groups such as Bassmaster, American Rivers, and Defenders of Wildlife solicited comments from members beyond Florida.
FORCE has engaged a professional survey group to produce a more detailed analysis of the full survey responses. “Our team is very interested in what subjects and outcomes are of interest to stakeholders of all backgrounds and positions. By better understanding everyone’s point of view, we can continue to identify shared solutions and recreation amenities that can meet a variety of user group needs,” shared Spontak.
FORCE released an online briefing on the survey process, preliminary results, and next steps for the coalition on Tuesday, November 9. For details visit www.FreetheOcklawaha.com.
The Free the Ocklawaha River Coalition for Everyone (FORCE) includes 60 organizations representing thousands of members from across Florida and beyond, including St. Johns Riverkeeper. Its mission is to restore the Ocklawaha as a free-flowing River, reconnecting the Silver and St. Johns Rivers, and elevating the regional benefits for all.
Read more in the Ocala Star Banner.
Watch: Margaret Spontak (FORCE), Lisa Rinaman (St. Johns Riverkeeper), Chris Farrell (Audubon Florida), and SJRWMD reps speak on restoration at the SJRWMD Governing Board meeting.