Title: Editorial in St. Petersburg Times, "Restoring the Oklawaha."
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00052153/00001
 Material Information
Title: Editorial in St. Petersburg Times, "Restoring the Oklawaha."
Physical Description: 1p.
Language: English
Publication Date: Apr. 20, 1992
Spatial Coverage: North America -- United States of America -- Florida
General Note: Box 4, Folder 5 ( CROSS FLORIDA BARGE CANAL ), Item 14
Funding: Digitized by the Legal Technology Institute in the Levin College of Law at the University of Florida.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00052153
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: Levin College of Law, University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.

Full Text

10A TIMES U MONDAY, APRIL 20, 1992 *

Restoring the Oklawaha
Among the tragic prices of the ill-conceived
Cross Florida Barge Canal was a dam that was The Cross Florida Barge
erected before the federal government mercifully
halted work. The Rodman Dam, completed in 1968, Canal itself was
choked the free-flowing Oklawaha River in north-
ern Florida, destroying 9,000 acres of forest and 16 unforgivable. To extend its
miles of river. mistakes, by maintaining
Almost a quarter-century later, Florida finally
has the chance to reclaim its lost nature, and a most the Rodman Dam, would
peculiar thing is happening. As the state develops be unconscionable. The
its long-awaited "Cross State Greenbelt" plan, a
group of bass fishing interests is fighting to keep Oklawaha deserves new
the dam to perpetuate the mistake of the barge life
canal. l
As incredible as it may seem, the state-appoint-
ed Canal Lands Advisory Committee is being asked Unlike the vital Kissimmee River project in
to consider keeping the dam And its soupy, shallow, South Florida, the Oklawaha restoration offers
weed-filled reservoir. The reason: fishing is easier immediate financial as well as environmental divi-
when the bass are all trapped in one fishing hole. dends. Dismantling the dam will cost an estimated
The fishing groups have gone so far as to suggest $4-million, which would eliminate most mainte-
the dam has created its own ecosystem, one now nance and operations costs and save the state
worthy of protection. A panel of University of money within four years.
Florida (UF) ecologists best answers that fatuous The more important payback, though, is the
argument. environmental one. Among scientists and regula-
"Any site with live organisms interacting with tors, the sentiment is all but unanimous: The dam
each other and with the environment is an ecosys- should be dismantled and the Oklawaha returned to
tem: a garbage dump, a sewage treatment plant, a its free-flowing natural status. A new ecological
golf course, an artificial lake, a farm, or a climax report, completed by the UF researchers, notes
forest," write the ecologists. "Not all ecosystems that the Oklawaha River valley was once an estab-
are equally desirable in a given time or place, lished, mostly undisturbed floodplain forest that
however." maintained its own diversity. It was what ecologists
Indeed. The fight to halt the Cross Florida call a "climax community," and as the professors
Barge Canal was largely a fight about the Oklawaha. reported: "Nature will continue driving toward the
The Oklawaha is the largest tributary of the St. climax community, and any struggle to retain the
Johns River and runs for 78 miles in northern (Rodman) lake will require constant expenditures of
Florida. It is, by ecological standards, a mature effort and money, forever."
river, one that boasts rich floodplain forests and Twenty-one years after work was halted on the
abundant wildlife. Barge Canal, a state lands advisory committee is
When the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built putting together a plan for how to take over the
the Rodman Dam, it blocked migration in the river property. When the committee completes its work,
and created a cesspool in a forest where animals the governor and Cabinet, and then the Legislature,
once roamed. The stagnant pool has promoted will be asked to approve it. At this point, the course
weed growth, led to fish kills, and forced the Corps should be clear. The barge canal itself was unforgiv-
to respond with costly draining and maintenance able. To extend its mistakes, by maintaining the
activities. The bill just to run the functionally Rodman Dam, would be unconscionable. The Okla-
useless dam is now nearly $1-million a year. waha deserves new life.

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