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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Environmentalists relaunch effort to remove Rodman dam



Environmentalists are jumpstarting the effort to remove the controversial dam at Rodman Reservoir, which they say harms other waterways in Northeast Florida.

On Monday, environmentalists Bruce Kaster and Joseph Little petitioned the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Forest Service to pass new rules leading to the destruction of the Kirkpatrick Dam.

The dam, constructed as part of a plan to build a canal across the state connecting the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean, has been a source of political frustration for environmentalists for four decades. 

"It's an absolute outrage that everything that's been done, we still have this dam," said former Gov. Buddy MacKay, who fought the canal as a congressman. "There's no reason whatsoever for doing this. In fact, it's an absolutely bizarre situation."

Environmentalists say the dam blocks the normal flow of the Ocklawaha River and harms springs in the area. The result, they say, is high salinity in the St. Johns River that has harmed wildlife and aquatic plants. 

But supporters argue that removing it would damage the ecosystem that has developed around the dam's Rodman Reservoir and be an economic blow to communities that rely on bass fishermen.

Those arguments aren't backed up by science or by economic studies, said Kaster and Little's lawyer, Jane West.

Attempts to get rid of the dam through the political process have stalled for years. This represents the first attempt to force the federal government's hand using the legal system. Kaster said he believes other environmental groups will join with additional litigation.

"We've been sissies," he said. "We really haven't gone after it the way we should."

[Last modified: Monday, December 5, 2016 12:51pm]


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