Environmental group files suit to breach dam

Organization says dam restricts ‘free-flowing Ocklawaha River’

Yet another attack has been made against Rodman Dam, this time in the form of a lawsuit against the U.S. Forest Service.

Florida Defenders of the Environment, Bruce Kaster and Joe Little are suing the agency to obtain an order to breach the dam and “restore the free-flowing Ocklawaha River,” according to a statement from the Defenders.

Earlier this year, Kaster and Little, members of the Defenders, filed a petition for rulemaking to enforce the terms of the dam’s special use permit, which the group said has expired.

Environmental group’s lawsuit accuses the Forest Service of failing to manage its lands – especially the Ocala National Forest, where the dam and Ocklawaha River are located – in a manner consistent with the Florida Plan for National Forests, namely, the continued use of the Rodman Dam.

“We regret that we have been left no alternative but to proceed with this lawsuit to force the U.S. Forest Service to restore the Ocklawaha River,” Kaster said in a statement. “However, after waiting patiently for over a decade for the Forest Service to move forward on restoration of the river, our patience has run out.”

A special use permit authorizing the use of the dam was issued in 1994 and expired in 1998, according to the statement, but the permit was extended twice to allow the state enough time to apply for a new occupancy permit that would provide analysis to support the permit.

But the schedule wasn’t followed, and the Forest Service ordered the state Department of Environmental Protection to renew the permit in 2010, according to the statement.

“The order went unheeded and to this day, no permit exists authorizing the continued occupation of federal land,” the complainants said in a statement.

An official from the U.S. Forest Service said the agency doesn’t comment on pending legal matters.

Putnam County Board of Commissioners Chairman Larry Harvey, however, had comments on the matter.

Harvey, the executive director of Save Rodman Dam, has witnessed numerous legal threats against the dam and Rodman Reservoir. This threat is especially disheartening, he said, because it comes from an environmental group.

The reservoir has evolved into a thriving ecosystem, and the dam filters nitrates from entering Lake Ocklawaha, which feeds into the St. Johns River.

The dam is vital to the bodies of water and Putnam County, Harvey said.

“It’s a sad state of affairs when people who want to defend the environment want to tear down the environment we have out at Lake Ocklawaha,” Harvey said.

Palatka Daily News

1825 St. Johns Ave.
Palatka, FL 32177
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