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Florida News

Renewed Fight to Save Ocklawaha River and Wildlife

By Stephanie Carroll Carson

TALLAHASSEE, FL - An unfinished construction project in central Florida is harming - and sometimes killing - Florida wildlife, according to conservationists.

The Ocklawaha River has been blocked by the Kirkpatrick Dam since 1968, when a federal project was started to connect the Atlantic Ocean with the Gulf of Mexico. The project was stopped in 1971, but the dam has remained, keeping animals such as manatees and sturgeon from using the river to travel in their natural habitat.

Link of interest:
Ditch of Dreams: The Cross Florida Barge Canal

David Guest, the managing attorney for Earthjustice in Florida, says it's time to step in and help.

"The Ocklawaha is a beautiful, natural river that's used by beautiful, rare species that we treasure as part of the Florida heritage."

This month, Earthjustice filed a notice of intent to sue the U.S. Forest Service under the Endangered Species Act to protect some of the endangered animals impacted by the dam.

A group of local fishermen has been fighting for decades to save the dam, but Guest and others say there are plenty of other locations for them to fish around the state.

"There are 10,000 lakes in Florida, and it just doesn't make any sense to say 'well, we need 10,001' when you get a beautiful, pristine river."

In 1991, the Forest Service and state Department of Environmental Protection had plans to remove the dam, but they were never carried out. 

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