a make or break action to reunite the rivers.

We are at a critical juncture for the Ocklawaha River. St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD) wants to hear your thoughts about the fate of the Rodman/ Kirkpatrick Dam. Now is the time we must take action to reunite the Ocklawaha, St. Johns and Silver Rivers and Silver Springs – The Great Florida Riverway. St. Johns Riverkeeper urges you to speak out in favor of a free-flowing Ocklawaha and the restoration of this natural system by breaching the Rodman/Kirkpatrick Dam. The deadline to submit your comments is October 22, 2021.

This may be our last great opportunity to restore this riverway for people and wildlife while fortifying the 100-mile St. Johns River Estuary from Welaka to Palatka to Jacksonville.

Wanted: Voices for the Riverway

When you click the link below, it will take you to six questions and an open-ended space for other comments. We have provided the questions, sample answers and background information below that you can reference as you fill out the survey.

Questions and sample answers to help you prepare:
What would you like to see happen with the Rodman Reservoir and Kirkpatrick Dam moving forward?

Sample Response:

Restoration of a free-flowing Ocklawaha River by breaching the Rodman/Kirkpatrick Dam to reunite the natural connection of Silver Springs, the Ocklawaha and the St. Johns River.

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

Sample response:

The science supports restoration. Studies by federal and state agencies have clearly demonstrated that restoration of a free-flowing, connected system is cost-effective and will provide significant ecological benefits to the St. Johns, Ocklawaha and Silver Rivers as well as Silver Springs.

More information to consider:

  • Three rivers, Ocklawaha, Silver and St. Johns, and 50 springs are restored
  • 20 lost springs and Silver Springs ecosystem are restored
  • Historic fish migration patterns and essential manatee habitat are reestabished
  • 100-mile St. Johns River Estuary from Welaka to Palatka to Jacksonville is healthier
  • 15,000+ acres of forested floodplain wetlands within the Florida Wildlife Corridor are restored or enhanced for people and wildlife
  • 150+ million gallons a day of natural flow restored to the Lower Ocklawaha and St. Johns Rivers
  • Restoration creates more diverse recreation opportunities for everyone, increases visitation and adds supporting jobs
What would be your biggest concern if your desired outcome is not achieved?

Sample Response:

We miss a historic opportunity to stop the ongoing ecological degradation caused by the dam and finally reunite the natural flow of these rivers. Breaching the dam would restore the natural flow of 150 mgd of fresh water, improve water quality, restore fish and wildlife habitat, and reduce saltwater intrusion. A free-flowing Ocklawaha will reestablish 15,000 acres of forested wetlands and fortify downstream submerged grasses from Welaka to Jacksonville in the St. Johns River that are critical to river health and fish habitat.

More information to consider:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Hundreds of manatees lose the opportunity to access essential warm water winter habitat.
  • Historic fish populations are not regained in the Ocklawaha River and Silver Springs, and invasive fish like the Blue Tilapia increase.
  • Water quality declines, further fueling invasive weed blockages, blue-green algae events, fish kills and submerged aquatic vegetation loss.
  • Thousands of acres of forests are not restored that could provide improved wildlife habitat, water filtration, natural flood protection, cooling canopy, and recreation benefits.
  • 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.
Is there any scenario short of fully achieving your desired outcome you could support?

Potential answer:

No. Breaching the dam and restoring the Ocklawaha are 50+ years overdue. Dam safety issues and improved water quality, wildlife habitat, and recreational opportunities can’t be ignored or delayed any longer.

Other comments.

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

Opening 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.

Second Paragraph Options by Topic:

OVERVIEW: 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.

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.

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.

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.

Thank you for going to the SJRWMD site to answer this crucial survey. Visit FreetheOcklawaha.com to keep abreast of important action alerts and news as we move into the vitally important 2022 legislative session.

If you have difficulty with the SJRWMD form, you can send an email instead to rodman@sjrwmd.com.