Rodman Reservoir shows out

For at least three reasons, April 21 was a big day for the nonprofit group Save Rodman Reservoir based in Palatka, Fla.

One: A 132-boat tournament, raffle and meal raised an estimated $10,000 for the effort to preserve Rodman Reservoir, an Ocklawaha River impoundment in central Florida.

Two: Rodman Reservoir proved itself as a bass fishery. The tournament’s winning weight was 23.28 pounds. Five of the many bass weighed in were between 7 and 8 pounds. Two bass weighed more than 8 pounds — one at 8.65 and another at 8.35.

Three: A Rodman-threatening 60-day “notice of intent to sue” expired Saturday. Filed by Earthjustice on behalf of two groups — Florida Defenders of the Environment and Florida Wildlife Federation — the lawsuit would have sought to take down the dam that created Rodman Reservoir in 1968. The intent, according to an Earthjustice press statement, was to sue the U.S. Forest Service under Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act to restore migration routes of manatees and shortnose sturgeon. The Forest Service was liable, Earthjustice said, because 600 acres of the impoundment is on Forest Service land.

Not so, said Ed Taylor, president of Save Rodman Reservoir and a Putman County (Florida) commissioner. The state owns the land, and Save Rodman has asked the Forest Service to prove its ownership; it has not, Taylor said.

Passing the 60-day expiration date was a bullet dodged. If history is any indication, other threats are more than possible. Organizations like B.A.S.S. are willing to step up to help save Rodman.

"The whole notion of removing the Kirkpatrick Dam and trying to restore a river that's been impounded for over four decades is just wrong-headed. Rodman is a very good bass fishery and a quality bird habitat, both of which not only enhance the quality of life in that whole area, but also generate positive economic value," said B.A.S.S. Conservation Director Noreen Clough.

Bass anglers like Rodman and are willing to keep fighting. Proof was the 132 boats and 264 anglers who turned out for Saturday’s 16th annual Save Rodman Reservoir Open Bass Tournament despite poor weather forecasts for Central Florida. Anglers showed up anyway, Taylor said.

“I’ll tell you what some of them told me: ‘In normal circumstances, with this kind of weather report, I probably wouldn’t have been here. But with threats to take the dam down and destroy Rodman, we would have been here in a hurricane.’”

Save Rodman Reservoir was founded in 1995 to deflect one of the first movements to breach the dam and drain the lake.

“They had the votes, the money and a governor who wanted to take it [the dam] out,” Taylor said. “A group of us got together and said, ‘Let’s don’t lose it without a fight.’ We went to Tallahassee to tell the other side of the story and turned the fight around.”

Now, said Taylor, Save Rodman would like to see state legislation reintroduced that would forever preserve Rodman Reservoir as a “reserve.” Such legislation was passed by the state legislature in 2003, only to have Gov. Jeb Bush veto the measure, Taylor said.

“The plans now are to go to the governor (Gov. Rick Scott). We have faith that the governor will support us. I haven’t talked to him yet, but when the time is right, I want to,” Taylor said.

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