Rodman Reservoir under attack – again

Rodman Reservoir
Steve Bowman
Rodman Reservoir protects the water quality of Florida's St. Johns River, but environmentalists are trying to get rid of Rodman.

Anti-fishing zealots have devised a new assault in their never-ending quest to destroy one of Florida’s best bass fisheries. This time they’re using the federal Endangered Species Act.

Those anglers who participated in the April 21 Save Rodman Open Fishing Tournament will help send a right-back-at-you volley across the bow of Florida Defenders of the Environment, Florida Wildlife Federation and Earthjustice.

And you can help too, by making a donation to Save Rodman Reservoir. Go to www.rodmanreservoir.org to learn more.

The tournament is the only fundraiser of the year for Save Rodman Reservoir Inc. (SRR), a small band of volunteers who have served as the guerilla resistance against the power and money of the environmental movement since 1995.

“Rodman Reservoir has been sitting there for 40 years and I can’t, for the life of me, see why any level-headed person would want to get rid of it,” said Ed Taylor, SRR president, who adds that the blind ideology of these groups has been driving him crazy for 17 years.

“What the enviros are hung up on is [the belief] that Rodman is not natural, and so it needs to go,” he said. “But the capitol building in Tallahassee is built in the middle of what used to be woods. It’s not natural either. A lot of things are not natural.”

Rodman, built on the Ocklawaha River, is the last remnant of the ill-fated Cross Florida Barge Canal, which was halted in 1971, when it was only a third complete. It was a bad idea from the start, initiated during a less-enlightened time, when we also were allowing agriculture, development and industry to destroy Florida’s Lake Apopka, as well as pollute Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades.

For environmentalists, Rodman is a constant reminder of that era, and they want it gone. Period.

They are willingly blind to the fact that this 9,000-acre reservoir is the exception to the rule in our environmental blunders. Despite ourselves, we created a thriving, diverse ecosystem. For example, the St. Johns River Water Management District confirmed 115 bird species in the Rodman system, compared to 45 along the Ocklawaha River. Seventy-four were observed only at the reservoir.

And how do environmentalists respond to facts? With derision.

Charles Lee, director of advocacy at Audubon of Florida told this to the Orlando Sentinel: “There are probably more bird species at the Orange County landfill than at a natural river, but that does not make it a good thing.”

OK, Chuck, how about the fact that the district documented more than a dozen different types of habitat within the Rodman complex, including more than a mile of river and floodplain swamp? How does that compare to a landfill?

That doesn’t matter either, I’m sure. Nor does the fact that Rodman is one of the most popular outdoor recreation destinations in the state. Or the reality that its abundant aquatic vegetation absorbs nutrients, protecting the water quality of the St. Johns River downstream of the dam.

Well, how about Rodman’s ready availability as a water supply source, as Florida cities consider how they will meet demand in the not too distant future? Or what about the cost of destroying this popular, productive system?

None of that is important for the environmental zealots, who want what they want and likely see a chance to get it in the Obama administration. They have lots of friends in Washington, D.C., these days, which could facilitate their suit to force the U.S. Forest Service to destroy the dam because — they allege — it endangers manatees and shortnose sturgeon.

“I’ve never seen a shortnose sturgeon, and I don’t know of anyone who has,” Taylor said. “Taypayers paid $600,000 for manatee protection devices at the dam and locks, and not one has been harmed since.”

Of course, that doesn’t matter either. Nor did it matter in 2003, when the Florida Senate unanimously passed a bill to ensure the future of Rodman by making it a reserve, and the House followed with its approval by a vote of 92 to 26.

“Sixty-five environmental groups opposed it and so Gov. Jeb Bush vetoed it,” Taylor says. “That’s what we’re up against.”

And that’s why your help is needed.

If you’ve never been to Rodman, you need to go and see for yourself why it’s worth saving. Even better, plan on fishing next year’s fund-raising tournament. And be sure to take heavy tackle when you go.

“Rodman’s still a great fishery,” said the SRR president. “This was a banner year, too, with lots of 8- to 10-pound fish, along with some 12s and 13s.”

Whether it remains a great fishery in the years to come depends on SRR and the support it receives from anglers and others who are not blinded by ideology.

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