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Anti-Environmental Policies:
Ocklawaha River - Rodman Dam legislation dead for this year.

Our Position: oppose
Bill Number: HB427/SB1930
Sponsor: Senator Oelrich and Rep.Pickens (CO-SPONSORS) Traviesa
Legislative Session: 2007

OUR STATEMENT WE DID 4/24/07: The supporters of the Rodman/George Kirkpatrick

State Reserve will hopefully realize that today's vote means the legislature

 recognizes it is time to restore the Ocklawaha River.

Speaking against the bill today was Karen Ahlers,

President Putnam County Environmental Council, Inc. and Sierra Club (me).

"This vote, along with Governor Crist's long standing committment to

restoration of the Ocklawaha River, gives activists good reason to continue to

push this issue forward," stated Karen Ahlers.

We are elated!!!

Please Thank Senators: Justice, Dockery, Saunders, and Rich.

Rodman Reserve voted down in Senate: Represenative Pickens was acting Speaker

Friday, 4/27/07, for a few hours and from the podium, moments before breaking for lunch,

 to paraphrase what he said: he asked if his Rodman Reserve Bill could be brought up and voted on even though the Senate killed it this week. As posted earlier in week, the Anti- Ocklawaha River bill was voted down by four of the six Senate Environmental and Preservation Committee membersthe Congratulations to everyone. Senators Dockery, Justice, Rich, and Chairman Saunders voted down the legislation that we have been fighting for years. Voting for the bill were Senators Jones and Gaetz.

From: FDE-RiverTeam

Sent: Tuesday, April 24, 2007 6:21:10 PM

Subject: Anti-Restoration Bill Defeated in Senate Committee




bill designed to prevent restoration of the Ocklawaha River (Senate Bill

1930) was defeated in a 4-2 vote in the Environmental Preservation &

Conservation Committee, chaired by Sen. Burt Saunders.


The George Kirkpatrick State Reserve Bill (HB 427/SB 1930) was meant to

retain the dam and reservoir as permanent structures and require the

expenditure of more money than the total cost for breaching the dam and

restoring the river.


It would be very fiscally irresponsible to require the state to spend

large sums of money in perpetuity to maintain an ecologically

destructive dame that serves no useful purpose.


Speaking against the bill at the committee meeting today was Karen

Ahlers of Putnam County Environmental Council and Susie Caplowe of the

Sierra Club of Florida.


Senators Paula Dockery, Charlie Justice, Nan Rich, and Chairman Saunders voted down this irresponsible bill. Please send a letter, email or make a telephone call to thank these senators: complete contact information is listed at the bottom.


If you have not done so already, please also thank the two members of

the House Committee on Conservation and State Lands who voted against

the companion bill (HB 427). (The House committee passed the bill but

Rep. Mary Brandenburg and Rep. Chuck Chestnut deserve our thanks for

voting against this bill. Their contact information is at the bottom as



We thank all the individuals and organizations that support restoration

of the Ocklawaha River. For more information, please visit



Sen. Burt Saunders


418 SOB

404 S. Monroe Street

Tallahassee, FL 32399



Sen. Nan Rich


226 SOB

404 S. Monroe Street

Tallahassee, FL 32399



Sen. Paula Dockery


314 SOB

404 S. Monroe Street

Tallahassee, FL 32399



Sen. Charlie Justice


308 SOB

404 S. Monroe Street

Tallahassee, FL 32399




Rep. Mary Brandenburg


221 Capitol

402 South Monroe Street

Tallahassee, FL 32399

phone: 850-488-0260


Rep. Charles (Chuck) Chestnut IV


1301 Capitol

402 S. Monroe Street

Tallahassee, FL 32399






3/31/07: The Senate had an update from DEP on the restoration history of the Ocklawaha River without bringing up the bill. We will need to see if it is agendad following the Passover and Easter Holidays. To review the presentation by DEP on 3/29/07, before the Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee, click here. The Committee packet from March 29, 2007, pages 102 thru 115. The feelign of the Committee was to move forward with restoration.

3/10/-07:Once again efforts are being made by some legislators to formally make the Ocklawaha River the "George Kirkpatrick State Reserve"...

GENERAL BILL   by Pickens (CO-SPONSORS) Traviesa

State Reserves: Establishes George Kirkpatrick State Reserve; directs Office of Greenways & Trails of DEP to develop multipurpose recreational opportunities & provide supervision of area; requires that certain alterations of reserve be approved by general law; allows public hunting; authorizes Division of State Lands to acquire adjacent or contiguous property.



4/21/07:  SENATE Bill 1930 is  On Committee agenda-- Environmental Preservation and
                  Conservation, 04/24/07, 1:45 pm.Contact Committee members and tell them to vote this bill down. There are no amendments available at the time of this posting. The last time this bill was discussed in this committee it was stressed that the time had come to restore the river. Perhaps there will be an amendment to do just that. You can check the status of this by clicking on the link found under more information.

4/14/07: the House bill has two more committee stops:
Environment & Natural Resources Council
-  Policy & Budget Council

4/5/07 Senate Environmental Committee has a presentation by DEP to discuss options to restoration of the Ocklawaha River.

3/24/07: The House bill passed out of the Conservation and State Lands Committee. Click here to see how the members voted.

HB 0427 Relating to George Kirkpatrick State Reserve Pickens
HOUSE Favorable by Conservation & State Lands; 6 Yeas, 2 Nays; Now in Environment & Natural Resources Council

Action Needed

 Ocklawaha Action Alert

Dear Ocklawaha River Restoration Supporters and Friends:


     We urgently request that you contact Gov. Charlie Crist regarding two very bad funding requests by Putnam County that have made it into the 2007-08 state budget. Please write, call, or fax Gov. Crist as soon as possible and ask that he:


1.       remove proviso language from Line Item 1928A, St. Johns River Trailhead Park – Putnam County, $100,000; and,

2.       remove proviso language from Line Item 1859, Upper Ocklawaha River Hurricane Debris Removal, $100,000.


     Thank Gov. Crist for his past support and let him know we stand ready to support his efforts to restore the Ocklawaha and do not want to see an increase in costs associated with maintaining the weed-infested Rodman pool. Let Gov. Crist know that these requests are pork-barrel projects proposed by opponents of Ocklawaha River restoration. They waste tax dollars, do great harm to the environment, and place manatees at high risk.  State planners and biologists should determine the best location for facilities in state parks, not special interest groups and legislators. The Ocklawaha River channel that lies drowned under Rodman Reservoir must be protected and restored, not widened and deepened for bass fishermen in fast boats.


It will only take you a few minutes. Please write, call, or fax as soon as possible!


Email: Charlie.Crist@myflorida.com

Phone: 850-488-7146

Fax: 850-487-0801

Mail: Gov. Charlie Crist, The Capitol, Tallahassee, FL 32399-0001




St. Johns River Trailhead Park – Putnam County, $100,000


     The title of this request led legislators to believe it is for hikers and bicyclists.  The original funding request was for $1.5 million with an expected future need of $4.5 million more. It has been reduced to $100,000 just to get it moving. You may remember a similar request that was made last year but was vetoed by then Gov. Bush.

     The project calls for a major development on the Cross Florida Greenway at Buckman Lock. The description reads: Trail head for hikers, campers, bicyclists, boaters, bird watchers, fishermen. Facilities to include 200 vehicles and boat trailer parking, a covered pavilion with restrooms, registration room, a four-lane staging area leading to a four-lane boat ramp, a spectator stand, a covered weigh-in station for fishing tournaments and/or festivals, a camping area and RV park site with hook-ups, showers, etc.


Here are some reasons we oppose this request:


·      The Buckman Visitors Center already serves as a trailhead for bicyclists, and hikers using two nature trails and the Florida National Scenic Trail. Adjacent lands are an excellent area for birdwatching and nature study. Busloads of school children fill what fishing tournament promoters call an “unused field” throughout the year.

·      This quiet section of the Cross Florida Greenway east of Buckman Lock is a known aggregation area for manatees. RV campgrounds, tournament facilities, and festivals would involve loudspeakers, lights, hundreds of vehicles, and hundreds of fast powerboats taking off at dawn/safelight, severely impacting manatees. There will be no safe escape for manatees in the canal.

·      The Buckman Lock area is in the O2O (Ocala to Osceola) wildlife corridor, considered one of the most important wildlife corridors in the SE United States. It is home for Sherman Fox squirrels, Florida black bears, and gopher tortoises. 

·      Recreation in the Putnam County section of the Cross Florida Greenway is supposed to be passive because of its ecological value.  This type facility is anything but passive.

·      This proposal is another attempt to build a constituency for preventing restoration of the Ocklawaha River at the expense of taxpayers and the environment.  It takes state park design out of the hands of park planners and biologists and puts it into the hands of a special interest group with an agenda contrary to the interests of the State of Florida.

·      Two developed public campgrounds already exist in the Rodman area. In addition, the non-profit Rodeheaver Boys Ranch nearby has a large RV campground and festival grounds that it uses to generate much needed revenue. There is adequate real estate available in Putnam County for development of a privately-owned RV campground.  If Putnam County wants a tournament facility, it should be located on the St. Johns River in the Palatka area to bring business to a struggling downtown. 

·      Putnam County and the City of Palatka have money from fishing licenses, boat registrations, and Better Place Plan 1-cent sales tax to build a tournament facility.  In fact, Save Rodman Reservoir, Inc., presented a proposal for a tournament facility to the City of Palatka several years ago.  The City concluded that a fishing tournament facility that could be modified for other uses was appropriate for the Palatka Riverfront, but a facility that was only suited to fishing tournaments wasn’t effective use of tax dollars and public riverfront.  Palatka does not want to lose the bass fishing tournaments that are held there.


     Ensure that state planners and biologists determine the best location for facilities in state parks, and special interests don’t misuse state funds on pork barrel projects that could easily be provided by the private sector for profit.  At the February 1st  St. Johns River Greenprinting Workshop in Palatka, tournament fishing director/Save Rodman Reservoir President/County Commissioner Ed Taylor told Trust for Public Lands that he was willing to look at alternative sites for a bass fishing tournament facility.  Make

sure he does.  Urge Gov. Crist to remove this bad item from the state budget by removing proviso language on Line Item #1928A for the St. Johns River Trailhead Park – Putnam County in the amount of $100,000.


Upper Ocklawaha River Hurricane Debris Removal - $100,000


     The description reads: This project will consist of the cleanup of storm debris in the Ocklawaha River by the removal and disposal of fallen trees, limbs, logs, brush, and other similar debris deposited in the waterway within 40 feet along the centerline of the waterway to a depth of four feet below the waterway's mean low water lever.


·      This isn’t hurricane debris. It is the remainder of a drowned (and continuing to drown) Ocklawaha floodplain forest and the exotic, invasive vegetation that grows rampant in Rodman.  The dead wood is supposed to remain to trap seeds in the restoration process.

·      The request inappropriately refers to the “upper” Ocklawaha when in fact, the Ocklawaha River in Putnam County is considered the Lower Ocklawaha River. The misnomer may be an intentional attempt to mimic legitimate hurricane debris removal Marion County received funding for from the Federal government last year.

·      Anyone who has ever experienced the Ocklawaha River knows that there are few spots anywhere that are 80 feet wide. The mean low water level is often less than four feet deep on shorelines and sandbars. This request amounts to channelizing the river and removal of important fish and aquatic species habitat.

·      Clearing and enlarging the river channel to facilitate fast boats is both an environmental issue and a tremendous waste of taxpayer dollars - $100,000 this year and another $100,000 next year. The request specifies that this is for “construction.” We ask, what does one construct to remove hurricane debris?


     Let’s let the governor know that we want the Ocklawaha River restored, not damaged further. We’re tired of all the costs associated with maintaining this weed-infested pool. Ask Gov. Crist to remove this bad item from the state budget by removing proviso language from Line Item 1859 that provides $100,000 for Upper Ocklawaha River Hurricane Debris Removal.



Email: Charlie.Crist@myflorida.com

Phone: 850-488-7146

Fax: 850-487-0801

Mail: Gov. Charlie Crist, The Capitol, Tallahassee, FL 32399-0001

Karen Ahlers, President
Putnam County Environmental Council
P.O. Box 1836
Interlachen, FL 32148
Phone: (352) 475-1936 - office
            (352) 546-3560 - home
Fax: (352) 475-1078

More information

To learn more about the House bill click here.

To learn more about the Senate bill click here.

Ocklawaha restoration remains in limbo
Gainesville Sun, 4/26/2007
TALLAHASSEE - The annual legislative fight over restoring the Ocklawaha River has ended as it usually does - with no clear-cut winner.

The Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee this week killed a bill (SB 1930) that would have created the George Kirkpatrick State Reserve in Marion and Putnam counties. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Steve Oelrich, R-Cross Creek, would have created a state park around the 9,000-acre Rodman Reservoir, making it more difficult to remove the dam that created the water body by blocking off and rerouting some 16 miles of the Ocklawaha River.

The intention of Oelrich's bill and a House measure (HB 427) sponsored by Rep. Joe Pickens, R-Palatka, was clear: They believe the reservoir should remain in place because it has become a popular fishing and recreation site for the North Central Florida region.'I'm not so sure what the value would be of pulling the plug'' on the reservoir, Oelrich said.

Oelrich is following in the tradition of his predecessors in his Senate seat who have fought to protect the Rodman dam and reservoir, including the late Sen. George Kirkpatrick, R-Gainesville, who was an ardent proponent for keeping the facility.

Oelrich said the dam has now been in place nearly 40 years and the region has developed its own eco-economy and the reservoir is 'a great area for wading birds and wildlife.'''It's got its own ecology,'' he said. 'It's got its own value.''

But Oelrich's bill was rejected by a 4-2 vote by the Senate environmental panel.

Sen. Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland, one of the opponents, said while she could see the arguments for keeping the dam, she believed restoring the river was in 'the best interest environmentally for the state.''

Environmentalists praised the Senate action, while saying the state needs to take more aggressive steps to restore the river.'It's a good thing because it sends a message to the House and the sponsors to stop bringing this bill forward year after year after year,'' said Susie Caplowe, a lobbyist for the Sierra Club. 'It's time for the Legislature to seriously look at putting up some money to restore the river and take the dam down.''

But that's not likely to happen either.

Although most of Florida's recent governors - including Gov. Charlie Crist and former Gov. Jeb Bush - have supported the restoration of the river, the 'removal of the dam faces substantial opposition and no funds for dam removal have been appropriated by the Legislature,'' a legislative analysis noted.


From the Florida Chapter




Senator Burt Saunders

Chair of the Senate Environmental Protection and Conservation Committee


Dear Chairman Saunders, Vice-Chair Rich, and Committee members, we want to thank you for holding a informational hearing regarding the status of the Ocklawaha River a few weeks ago. The DEP presentation provided you several options and we support the option to  restore  the Ocklawaha River and finally remove the Rodman Dam.


As you know, Rodman Dam has held back the waters of North Central Florida's Ocklawaha River since the middle of the last century, a relic of the abandoned Cross Florida Barge Canal, and now a barrier to the health of this river and its wildlife.  In January 1995, then-Governor Lawton Chiles ordered DEP and the SJRWMD to begin permitting for restoration and spent well over $500,000.00 for studies. Today (12 years later), the permits remain un-reviewed and legislation is regularly introduced in Tallahassee that would put additional roadblocks
in front of restoring this important tributary of the St. Johns. 


The Florida Chapter Sierra Club has 18 groups and more than 30,000 members.  We have expressed concern regarding the status of the Ocklawaha over the years and continue to support its restoration, which can only be accomplished by demolishing the Rodman Dam.


Isn’t it more important to have a beautiful, healthy waterway for our wildlife and recreation for our residents and visitors to enjoy, than a fishing hole for only a few?  The Ocklawaha attracts visitors from all around the world, enjoying it’s landscape and wildlife; tubing, kayaking and canoeing are favorite past times. 


We must keep our rivers clean and flowing and free of nutrients and pesticides and removing the Dam will begin the restoration process.


We continue to lose habitat for our wildlife both on the uplands and in our waters at an alarming rate.  All areas affect each other.  It is vital to our well being and the well-being of the state for us to be stewards of our environment. 


I urge you to free the Ocklawaha and restore its pristine qualities for our children and grandchildren.




Thank you,



Betsy Roberts, Chair, Florida Chapter Sierra Club

John Glenn, Nassau, Florida Chapter, Conservation Chair

Karen Orr, Gainesville, Florida Chapter, Water and Wetlands Issue Chair

Ben Fusaro, Tallahassee, Florida Chapter, Protecting Florida Native Habitats Issue Chair

Susie Caplowe, Florida Chapter Lobbyist


cc.Senator  Nan Rich Vice Chair

     Senator  Paula Dockery

     Senator Don Gaetz

     Senator Dennis Jones

     Senator  Charlie Justice




Putnam County Environmental Council


Kirkpatrick Reserve Bills threaten Ocklawaha Restoration



     Well, they’re trying it again. Rep. Joe Pickens and recently elected Sen. Steve Oelrich have introduced bills in both the House and Senate to create the George Kirkpatrick State Reserve. House Bill 427 and Senate Bill 1930, if passed into law, would make Kirkpatrick Dam and Rodman Reservoir permanent. The new law would be a permanent dam not only to wildlife movement and river restoration, but to free enterprise, entrepreneurship, and the development of a vibrant ecotourism economy for Putnam and Marion counties. Don’t let that happen.

     Rep. Pickens HB 427 is on the House Committee on Conservation and State Lands agenda for  Wednesday, March 21. Please contact committee members listed below ASAP.  Let them know you want Rodman Dam removed so the Ocklawaha River can flow freely once again.  Here are just a few of the reasons these bills need to be stopped:


·        An extended drawdown of Rodman Reservoir must be allowed to scientifically quantify the impacts of nutrients to the St. Johns River. 

·        According to wildlife corridor expert Tom Hoctor, Rodman Reservoir is detrimental to conservation of the region’s biodiversity and inconsistent with Florida’s policy to protect and restore a statewide conservation system. Removing the dam and draining Rodman Pool would open the historic path for manatees and migrating fish and restore connectivity between populations of terrestrial species, like the threatened Florida black bear.  

·        In a year where springs protection legislation is being seriously considered, it is ironic to pass a bill that would keep more than 20 second and third magnitude springs permanently flooded.

·        Florida’s draft manatee protection plan calls for the identification of, access to, and restoration of natural warm water sites. It is unthinkable to permanently deny manatees access to the springs of the Ocklawaha River and to Silver Springs.

·         A Socio-Economic Study of the Rodman Reservoir by Clyde Diao, PhD of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Diao states: “The impact of the Reservoir on the regional economy of Putnam and Marion counties is negligible…For the two counties taken as a whole, the impact becomes microscopic.”  A restored Ocklawaha River would provide ecotourism opportunities for fishing, camping, kayaking, canoeing, scenic river trips from Palatka to Silver Springs, and historical and archaeological tours. The restoration in itself will be a draw for ecotourists and scientists for years to come.

·        Passage of this legislation will require continued funding to maintain and replace water control structures, control exotic weeds, operate a lock and dam, and debris removal.

·        According to American Rivers, more than 650 dams have been removed in the US, and another 58 removed or slated to be removed in 2006. These are dams that no longer serve their intended purpose or where the dam's costs outweigh its benefits. Kirkpatrick Dam is on American Rivers’ list of dams that need to be removed.


Committee members are:


Rep. Will S. Kendrick, Chair    

Phone: (850) 488-7870 or Will.Kendrick@myfloridahouse.gov 


Rep. Faye Culp, Vice-Chair

Phone: (850) 488-2770 or Faye.Culp@myfloridahouse.gov


Rep. Richard Machek

Phone: (850) 488-5588 or Richard.Machek@myfloridahouse.gov


Rep. Mary Brandenburg

Phone: (850) 488-0260 or Mary.Brandenburg@myfloridahouse.gov


Rep. Charles Chestnut

Phone: (850) 488-5794 or Charles.Chestnut@myfloridahouse.gov


Rep. Rene Garcia 

Phone: (850) 487-2197 or Rene.Garcia@myfloridahouse.gov


Rep. Doug Holder

Phone: (850) 488-1171 or Doug.Holder@myfloridahouse.gov


Rep. Will Weatherford

Phone: (850) 488-1171 or Will.Weatherford@myfloridahouse.gov


 Gov. Charlie Crist has long been a supporter of restoration, but let’s not take a chance. Please write or call Gov. Crist today. Thank him for his past support of restoration of the Ocklawaha and express your concern about these bad bills.


Governor Charlie Crist

The Capitol

Tallahassee, FL 32399-0001

Phone: 850-488-7146

Fax: 850-487-0801



For more information contact:

Karen Ahlers, President
Putnam County Environmental Council
PO Box 1836
Interlachen, FL 32148
Phone: (352) 475-1936
Fax: (352) 475-1078
Karen Ahlers, President
Putnam County Environmental Council
PO Box 1836
Interlachen, FL 32148
Phone: (352) 475-1936
Fax: (352) 475-1078

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