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Florida News

Protection of Ocklawaha River and Wildlife One Step Closer

By Stephanie Carroll Carson

TALLAHASSEE, FL - After 44 years of damming up a river for a project that was never completed, central Florida is one step closer to removing the dam over the Ocklawaha River. The dam was built in 1968 as part of a project to construct a cross-Florida barge canal. The plan was abandoned, but the dam remained, blocking natural migration of Florida wildlife. This week the U.S. Forest Service says it will reconsider the impact of the dam on the river.

David Guest, Florida attorney for Earthjustice, says this forward momentum is much needed.

Links of interest:
Ditch of Dreams: The Cross Florida Barge Canal
Renewed Fight to Save Ocklawaha River and Wildlife

"The train has been stopped with the engine on. The letter that was issued yesterday restarts the engine and it hopefully will get some real progress."

The dam over the river has flooded 9,000 acres of floodplain forest. The removal of the dam has been supported by numerous groups since the 1970s, including several sitting presidents and Florida governors. Up until now it has been stalled by an organized group of bass fisherman, who want to maintain their sport along the dam. Guest says they hope to have this resolved by year's end.

The project was halted by President Nixon, and Guest says it had unintended consequences for the region.

"This dam is a relic from 40 years ago of a boondoggled plan that turned out to be an impending environmental disaster."

Guest says once approved, breaching the dam and restoring the river will take a relatively little amount of work and will have almost an immediate positive impact on the wildlife. 

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