Manatees Need Your Voice!

The four-week window of public comment is a make-it-or-break-it moment for Florida. Please fill out a short survey by October 22nd at 5:00 p.m.

Manatees in the Ocklawaha River, Florida.
The Great Florida Riverway is essential habitat for manatees.

Please let the St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD) hear your thoughts about breaching the Rodman/Kirkpatrick Dam to reunite the Ocklawaha, St. Johns, and Silver Rivers and Silver Springs – The Great Florida Riverway. The survey will only be available for four weeks, so we are urging you to speak out in favor of breaching the dam and restoring the Ocklawaha River now. Restoring the Great Florida Riverway by removing key portions of this dam will re-establish traditional access to essential habitat for manatees, bring back migratory fish, connect three river ecosystems and historic Silver Springs, and restore a lost riverway for anglers and paddlers from Ocklawaha’s Harris Chain of Lakes to the Atlantic.

When you click the link below, it will take you to four questions and an open-ended space for other comments. There is a 2,500 character limit for each answer. The button will open the link in a new window, enabling you to refer to this page if you need help filling out your answers. We have sample questions and answers below you can use to answer the survey.

 

Here are the questions you will see and sample answers that you may use for the survey:

1.What would you like to see happen with the Rodman Reservoir and Kirkpatrick Dam moving forward?
Please use this answer or enter one of your own:
Restore the Ocklawaha River by breaching the Rodman/Kirkpatrick Dam.

2. What is the most important piece of information that supports your position?
Please use any or all these paragraphs or enter your own response:
The Rodman Dam impacts three rivers, more than 50 springs and over 15,000 acres of forested wetlands. It prevents the natural migration of Florida’s native fish and prohibits hundreds of manatees from obtaining refuge and forage in cold winter months. Breaching the dam would restore freshwater flow, uncover drowned springs in the Silver Springs ecosystem, which are essential habitat for manatees, and provide thousands of acres within the Florida Wildlife Corridor for birds, bears, panthers and other wildlife.

Restoring the Ocklawaha River will provide 150+ million gallons a day of natural freshwater flow to the Lower Ocklawaha and St. Johns Rivers, making them more resilient to saltwater intrusion and improving water quality downstream. The 100-mile St. Johns Estuary from Welaka to Palatka to Jacksonville will be healthier.

The dam is more than 50 years old and has surpassed its life expectancy, without ever being used for its intended purpose. With restoration, an estimated $4-14 million in dam repairs will be saved in taxpayer money. Also, an unexpected breech has the potential to result in more than $57 million in flood damages. Restoration creates more diverse recreation opportunities for everyone, increases visitation and adds supporting jobs, which would be an economic win for the surrounding communities.

3. What would be your biggest concern if your desired outcome is not achieved?
Please use this answer or enter one of your own:
If Florida does not act now, we miss the best opportunity to provide essential warm water and forage habitat for manatees in a time when they are dying at an alarming rate due to habitat loss in other areas. Although manatees use the Ocklawaha and Silver Rivers, they must pass through a manually operated lock that is both intermittent and perilous. Breeching the dam is necessary in order to provide uninhibited passage, particularly during cold winter months when springs provide critical warm water discharges for manatees. Native fish populations also rely on free passage through the system and we are seeing an increase in invasive fish downstream of the dam. State and federal funds are available, public interest is high, environmental needs are critical and the dam is unsafe.

Millions in taxpayers’ money will be needed to repair Rodman/Kirkpatrick Dam, a dam that does not provide flood protection, power, water supply or other broad public benefit. Thousands of dollars are spent each year to remove invasive weed blockages to maintain access to the reservoir. Further, a dam failure or overtopping could result in potential damages to 537 property owners and up to $57 million in damages. The dam is an economic boondoggle. Conversely, removing the dam means that Putnam County and Silver Springs economies have an opportunity for economic growth from increased visitation, construction, and hospitality jobs and an estimated $47 million in economic benefits over 10 years.

The 100-mile St. Johns River Estuary will continue to be deprived of 150 mgd of natural water flow to improve water quality, restore fish and wildlife habitat, and reduce saltwater intrusion. Water quality declines are fueling invasive weed blockages, blue-green algae events, fish kills and submerged aquatic vegetation loss. The rivers and estuary impacted by Rodman Dam provide resilience for our agricultural communities and nursery for commercial and recreational fish. They are the literal lifeblood of this region and should be restored.

4. Is there any scenario short of fully achieving your desired outcome you could support?
No. Breaching the dam is 50+ years overdue. Dam safety, improved water quality and wildlife can’t wait. Temporarily drawing the reservoir down to 11 or 12 ft. mean sea level until restoration occurs will avoid downstream property damages from a potential dam failure and still provide continued recreational benefits. However, a drawdown alone does not provide significant environmental benefits for fish, manatees, water quality, water flow and an unobstructed blueway.

5. Open-ended section to add additional comments. Think ahead and add your most compelling reasons this needs to happen now.
See the following two paragraphs for an example:
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.

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.


We appreciate your support for manatee and aquatic habitat protection!