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Port Task Force Decision Reignites Rodman Reservoir Advocates

Sandra Friend
US Department of Agriculture - Forest Service

Mayor Alvin Brown’s Port Task Force has voted in support of breaching a Putnam County dam as an offset for proposed deepening of the Jacksonville Harbor.

A coalition of Jacksonville business and environmental advocates say removing the dam will flush millions of gallons of fresh water into the St. Johns River each day. They say that would offset environmental damage caused by the proposed dredging of Jacksonville’s port.

Meanwhile, advocates for keeping the dam, and the man-made lake behind it, say it acts as a water filter keeping pollution from flowing downstream.

Jacksonville University marine scientist Quinton White says the argument doesn’t hold water.

He voted against deepening the Port, but backed the idea of offsetting environmental damage by removing the dam and restoring the flow of the Oklawaha River, the largest tributary to the St. Johns.

“It’s an oversimplification to talk about the Rodman being a giant retention pond,” White said. “If you, in fact, had that 9 thousand acres of wetlands, filtering that water and processing that water, what you’d have is clean clear water flowing out of the Oklawaha, probably several hundred million gallons more than is currently flowing.”

Tom Ingram is an attorney representing Save Rodman Reservoir, a group pushing to keep the dam, and the man-made lake behind it, in place. Ingram disagrees with proponents of destroying the dam, who say the river should be freed.

“The Oklawaha is not somehow in jail. This is a functioning 10,000 acre habitat for animals, birds and fish, and it’s enjoyed by many people,” Ingram said. “What would anyone propose as mitigation for eliminating a 10,000 acre freshwater lake?”

The Task Force is now looking at ways to come up with over 300 million dollars in state and local funds needed to complete the projects.

Peter Haden is an award-winning investigative reporter and photographer currently working with The Center for Investigative Reporting. His stories are featured in media outlets around the world including NPR, CNN en Español, ECTV Ukraine, USA Today, Qatar Gulf Times, and the Malaysia Star.