The ecological services, esthetic values and
scientific data provided by the Oklawaha River basin.
by Joseph Siry; 12/12/97, Maitland, Fl.
Why restore the free-flowing Ocklawaha River from the Silver River to the St. Johns River?

The economic, biological and esthetic reasons are as follows:

Because a useless dam costs between $.4 and $1.2 million annually to maintain.

Since the construction of Rodman dam and the pool behind it:

historic clarity of the Ocklawaha river has been reduced

large freshwater springs suitable for recreation are submerged

manatees (9 0f 15) have died in the locks and sluice gates

more water evaporates from the pool than is captured by the dam

annual exotic weed control is essential to maintain Rodman's fish; historic diversity of fish on the river has diminished

very few citizens have access to the area's scenic and wildlife resources

water quality of the reservoir is not as high as it is for the free running river

Mike Archer, Orlando Sentinel (12/1/97), wrote:

"a treasure of plant and animal life."

"Bust the dam wide open and let the Ocklawaha River flow as it was intended to flow.

When given a choice of maintaining a man-made boondoggle or letting nature run its course, it doesn't take a scientist to figure out the answer."


Numerous benefits derived from preservation, restoration and removal of the Dam from the Ocklawaha River forest floodplain:


flowing water for catfish, mullet, striped bass, shad, and eels.

freshwater bass population would rebound from a 60% decline.

greater diversity of sport fish in both rivers:redbellies, crappie, shell crackers and warmouth and lunker largemouth bass, shad, striped bass, of nearly 100 species of fish.


reestablishes a wildlife corridor of sufficient size for large to small mammals by reconnecting the Okefenokee and Ocala National Forest ecological and vegetative habitats.


20 Springs and more canoeing outposts

sport fishing

Ocala National Forest has 1 million visitors annually.

Within 30 miles of Rodman pool there currently exist

200,000 acres of open water on lakes.

Flood control

drains 2,800 square miles along a 78 mile long main stream

stores water in its floodplain marshes & swamps

Water quality

nutrients from both fertile upriver swamps and the nutrient rich underground springs draining the Floridan aquifer:

Forests absorb and purify water,

Swamps beside the river absorb and purify water,

Wet prairies of the Palatlakaha basin purify water.


The Oklawaha river is both spring and swamp fed. As the largest tributary of the St. John's river, it drains equally the waters of the Silver River and the large lakes that dot the sand hill region of Florida's Central Ridge. From Ocala south to Lake Apopka the Oklawaha River changes dramatically flowing past low bluffs, hardwood swamps, reclaimed and now abandoned corn fields and levee-lined farm yards draining wet prairies, lakes, marshes and swamps.

The basin is actually three rivers in one, all fed differently by water from runoff, water from underground aquifers, and braided hardwood delta land at the confluence of the Oklawaha and the St.Johns rivers. One river drains the central wet prairies flowing north from Lakes Apopka and Griffin. The second river drains the beautiful Silver River from Silver Springs. The third river bends from north to east draining the Orange Lake and creek and Mill creek before converging in a braided stream bed with the St. Johns.

The swamps of the Oklawaha (Ocklawaha is a variant spelling)are among the best studied ecosystems in Florida. These mixed hardwood forests that line the river are called "bottomland hardwood forest" associations and are among the most diverse and productive vegetational areas of the southeast because they provide a dense array of nesting cavities for mammals, edible fruits and nuts for animals, and numerous small invertebrates for fish and birds to feed on throughout the year. The river is a veritable smorgasbord of nourishment for north Florida's fish and wildlife.


Silver springs is the main source of the Oklawaha River, 550 million gallons flow daily.

"The natural Ocklawaha had a rapid flow, water traveled 60 miles from Moss Bluff to the St. Johns in 3.6 days, over a decline of .7 feet per mile."

The river is 17,000 years old, once a lagoon bed when sea level was higher, 30,000 years ago in a warm interglacial period of earth's history.

Fifty-four inches (54'') annual rainfall feed the surface waters of the Oklawaha basin. The other half comes from underground springs emerging from the Ocala limestone.

Scientific data on the River's characteristics:

Pages Source Commentary

Clyde Kiker, "Economic Analysis of the Rodman

Reservoir / Ocklawaha River Restoration: A Brief

Comment," (FDE), January 1995. The parenthetical numbers referred to below.


DEP cost figures in a "Payback Period" analysis demonstrates that savings from discontinued operation of Rodman Reservoir can pay for the restoration of the Ocklawaha River in as little as one year after deconstruction and a maximum of eight years."


DEP report "The bottom line findings are that adoption of any alternative will have minimal (if not negligible) net economic impact upon Putnam County, Marion County, or the larger region



Adopt the "Minimum Restoration" alternative without replanting


"Following initial construction costs and any replanting costs there will be no costs annually associated directly with the Ocklawaha River."


"reestablishing the natural function of the Ocklawaha River through minimum restoration activities can be paid for by the savings in the cost of operating and maintaining Rodman Reservoir in a short period of time." [1-8 years]


After the payback period Florida taxpayers will save money from not having to pay the $.435 million annually for operation and maintenance of the lock and dam.


DEP estimates of the reservoirs' users is one third more than actual survey results of users suggests and ignores the number of visitors to nearby Juniper, or Salt Springs.


Some twenty springs lie buried under Rodman pool as a source of recreation.

Ocklawaha River Restoration

"DEP analysts go on to say that the retention of the Rodman Reservoir 'cannot be construed as the proverbial pot of gold' and restoration of the river 'will certainly not send either county's economy into a disastrous economic downturn.' "


Florida DEP [Department of Environmental Protection, "A Socio-Economic Study of Rodman Reservoir." Tallahassee, Florida: Economic Analysis Section Office of the General Counsel, January 1995, pp. 7-35. In reference to the "Minimum Restoration" without tree-planting and operations' costs above.

Ted Williams, "River Retrieval," Fly Rod & Reel Magazine, Jan.-Feb., 1994. The last two quotes below.

"Rodman is unique among the world's dams in not having even an alleged purpose or function."

"Since then (1971) the resulting impoundment - a vile six-foot deep, 9000 acre stew of herbicides and dead and dying vegetation has been maintained at an annual cost to taxpayers of about $1 million."

Scientific commentary:

Robert J. Livingston

"The St. Johns drainage system includes a fluvial drainage of 7400 square kilometers and an estuarine drainage of 1680 square kilometers."

"The St. Johns and its principal tributary the Oklawaha, are meandering,..."


Katherine C. Ewel

swamps,... the Oklawaha floodplain forest in central Florida,

Ewel (282)

River swamps have among the highest species richness in woody vegetation of any ecological habitat in Florida


"Few blackwater river swamps have been studied;one major exception is the Oklawaha River swamp, parts of which are inundated by the construction of Rodman Dam."

Ewel (300)

"In certain river swamps, such as the Oklawaha, the occurrence of cabbage palm suggests occasional fire."

Ewel (304)

"Both the gross primary productivity and net primary productivity are high in swamps with flowing water"

Ewel, (308)

River swamps are characterized by:

high canopy insect production,

high production of edible fruits and seeds, and

high cavity density for nesting animals.

Ewel, (308)

"The edges of floodplain forests, with mast-producing bottomland hardwoods and proximity to other species in adjoining mesic forests, therefore support perhaps the greatest density and diversity of wildlife in Florida."

Ewell, p. 315.

James Kushlan:

"Numerous small marshes dotted the Oklawaha River valley before it was impounded in the 1960s."

Kushlan, p. 327.

The St. Johns river basin is has a change in relief of less than 1.5 meters over the entire drainage area.

Kushlan, p. 326.

"In contrast, floodplain marshes gain additional nutrients from river overflow." p. 335.

Necessity of proper "biological management" in

Myers & Ewell, Ecosystems of Florida (Orlando:

University of Central Florida Press, 1990). (620)

All of the above scientific references are to this citation.

Esthetics of the American Pastoral tradition:

Poet, Sydney Lanier wrote of the Oklawaha:

"the sweetest water-lane in the world, a lane which runs for more than a hundred and fifty miles of pure delight."


Initial impact benefits birds such as:

Limpkins, hawks, owls, turkeys, woodpeckers, migratory song birds.

13 missing fish species from Rodman pool and animals including manatees, river otters, bears and deer.

Forests provide many services by being intact ecological systems, the Oklawaha's floodplain forests do as well:

These functional attributes of forests amount to a set of ecological services provided by these riparian ecosystems, or ecosystem services.

Each of the above items represents the value of products derived from forests.

The services performed by a large tree, over its lifetime is, for example, worth $170,000.

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