Cross Florida Barge Canal & Rodman Dam History

It is important to remember history as we move towards advocating for the future. This interactive timeline starts in 1935 when the construction of the Cross Florida Barge Canal initially begun, and later halted in 1971. Take a journey with us through time and look at where we are present day. You can even view the timeline in 3d. Click the white circle button to the left of your screen that says 3d. Looking for a particular word or event? Click on the toolbar to the bottom right of your screen and type it in. We hope you enjoy learning about the Ocklawaha River as much as we do.

1935-09-04 00:00:00

Construction of the Canal Began Before Being Halted One Year Later

Despite risk to groundwater supplies, federal authorization of $5M to complete project. Pay for canal work was $0.30/hour, good by Depression era standards. This 107 mile long, 30 foot deep gash would utilize the paths of the existing St. Johns, Ocklawaha, and Withlacoochee Rivers to cross the state.

1935-10-01 10:59:36

Canal Project Jeopardizes Florida's Drinking Water

United States Geological Survey (USGS) report finds canal project would jeopardize Florida’s drinking water.

1936-06-17 10:59:36

Funding Gone-Work Stops on the Canal Project

After only three percent of the work is completed, work stops on the Barge Canal as Congress failed to approve further funding for the project.

1940-01-01 10:59:36

Threat of War Provides 0pportunity for Canal Supporters.

Canal supporters argued that the canal was essential for national defense. But to make the project more palatable to opponents, boosters altered project from a deep ship canal (35 feet deep) to a shallower barge canal (12 feet deep).

1942-06-01 10:59:36

Congress Approves Project Offers No Funding

Canal boosters believed they had hit the jackpot when the SS Gulfamerica, an American oil tanker, was sunk off Jacksonville by torpedoes from a German U-boat. The incident occurred in full view of spectators on the shore. This event created support for arguments that the canal was needed for national defense. However, it would take another 22 years for Congress to allocate funding to this project.

1943-12-09 00:00:00

US Army Corps of Engineers Draws up Plans for Canal Project

The US Army Corps of Engineers released plans for the project that would eventually begin construction in the 1960s.

1947-01-01 00:00:00

Fish Enthusiasts Claim Fish are Numerous

Interview of commercial fisherman described that fish were plentiful, as well as eel.

1950-12-01 00:00:00

Eisenhower Does Not Pick Up the Canal Project

The Eisenhower administration saw no merit in the project and did not seek funding from Congress.

1960-01-01 00:00:00

Cold War Fears Resurrected Arguments for National Defense

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1963-12-31 00:00:00

President Johnson Signs Legislation Construction for the Cross Florida Barge Canal Project

Later President Lyndon Johnson would speak at the opening ceremonies of the Cross Florida Barge Canal construction. In his speech Johnson goes on to say, “The challenge of a modern society is to make the resources of nature useful and beneficial to the community, so this is the passkey to economic growth.”

1964-02-27 00:00:00

Groundbreaking at the Cross Florida Barge Canal at Rodheaver Boys Ranch

Groundbreaking at Rodheaver Boys Ranch with President Johnson in attendance.

1968-09-01 00:00:00

Rodman Dam Completed

Rodman Dam completed, closing off flow of the Ocklawaha River and preventing migration of fish species upstream of the dam.

1969-05-01 00:00:00

New Environmental Group Forms to Halt Canal Project

Florida Defenders of the Environment formed to stop the project. FDE was a successor to an earlier organization, Citizens for Conservation.

1969-09-15 00:00:00

Lawsuit Filed Against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

The Environmental Defense Fund and Florida Defenders of the Environment file suit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Federal District Court, Washington, D.C. The suit calls for an immediate halt to construction of the Cross Florida Barge Canal project.

1970-03-01 00:00:00

Florida Defenders of the Environment Publishes one of the First Environmental Impact Statements

FDE publishes one of the first environmental impact statements after National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) is passed requiring an EIS for any project requiring federal funding.

1971-01-19 00:00:00

President Nixon Stops Construction

President Nixon signed an executive order to end work on the Barge Canal after 1/3 of project had been completed. President Nixon orders a stop to construction of the project “to prevent potentially serious environmental damages.”

1971-03-01 00:00:00

Florida Game & Freshwater Fish Commission Recommends Reservoir to be Drained and Dam Breached

Florida Game & Freshwater Fish Commission recommends that the reservoir be drained, and the dam be breached to restore the river.

1976-03-01 00:56:59

Florida Department of Natural Resources Recommends Restoration of the Ocklawaha River

Florida Department of Natural Resources on behalf of Florida Governor Rueben Askew and the Florida Cabinet recommends restoration of the Ocklawaha River and designation as a wild and scenic river.

1978-07-01 18:37:50

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Conclude draining Rodman Pool would have no significant socioeconomic impacts

Final Environmental Impact Statement by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers concludes draining Rodman Pool and restoring the river would have no significant socioeconomic impacts.

1985-06-01 08:06:30

Governor Bob Graham takes position on Cross Florida Barge Canal

Governor Bob Graham makes clear Florida’s unequivocal position concerning the Cross Florida Barge Canal at a meeting in Palatka: “We have many, many needs – we need new schools, more teachers, roads, bridges, mass transit, water and sewer lines – but there is one thing we don’t need, and that’s the Cross Florida Barge Canal.”

1990-11-28 03:28:18

President George H. W. Bush signs the legislation deauthorizing the remaining portions of the Cross Florida Barge Canal project.

The federal deauthorization was contingent of Florida’s legislative deauthorization. Florida had already passed legislation on Oct 27, 1990 to deauthorize the project, but Governor Lawton Chiles did not sign the Florida legislation until January 22, 1991.

1991-05-18 15:23:20

Governor Lawton Chiles and Florida Cabinet deauthorize the Cross Florida Barge Canal project.

Governor Chiles and the Florida Cabinet makes this decision official by signing the resolution agreeing to the federal deauthorization bill. The Cross Florida Barge Canal Project will not be picked up again. Governor Lawton Chiles served as a United States senator from 1971 to 1989 and as the 41st governor of Florida from 1991 to 1998.

1993-01-01 00:00:00

Florida legislature allocates $900,000 for Future Planning of Rodman Dam

Florida legislature allocates $900,000 for an 18-month examination of four possible scenarios: 1) full retention of reservoir 2) partial retention of reservoir 3) partial restoration of reservoir 4) full restoration of reservoir. The study was managed by FDEP and subcontracted to the St. Johns River Water Management District.

1995-01-01 00:00:00

Legislature Report Concluded-Recommends Restoration of the Ocklawaha River

The 20-volume report assessing four scenarios was completed. It concluded that “efforts should be directed instead at restoration of the Ocklawaha River.”

1995-06-16 00:00:00

Governor Lawton Chiles Calls for a Phased Drawdown of the Rodman Reservoir

Governor Lawton Chiles directs Florida Department of Environment Protection in cooperation with St. Johns River Water Management District to begin a phased drawdown of the Rodman Reservoir and to move forward with the partial restoration option to restore the Ocklawaha River.

1995-07-27 00:00:00

Save Rodman Reservoir, Inc. Established to Preserve “Lake Ocklawaha”

Supporters of the Rodman Dam form group called Save the Rodman Reservoir.

1997-10-01 00:00:00

Florida Department of Environmental Protection Submits Permits for Restoration

FDEP submits its permit application to the St. Johns River Water Management District for restoration of the Ocklawaha River.

1997-10-10 09:31:57

Marjorie Harris Carr passes away at age 82.

Marjorie Harris Carr founder of Florida Defenders of the Environment was an essential leader in the fight against the Cross Florida Barge Canal construction.

1998-03-07 00:00:00

Cross Florida Barge Canal renamed Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway

Known as the Cross Florida Barge Canal now has a new name in remembrance of environmental advocate and leader Marjorie Carr. This Greenway follows the path of the abandoned Cross Florida Barge Canal.

1998-05-01 00:00:00

Legislature Commemorates Senator George Kirkpatrick by Renaming Rodman Dam

The legislature commemorates Senator George Kirkpatrick by renaming Rodman Dam after him. The Florida Legislature renamed the Rodman Dam the Kirkpatrick Dam in 1998. Kirkpatrick was adamant about maintaining the dam for a vocal group of bass fishermen.

1999-01-01 00:00:00

St. Johns River Water Management District deems FDEP’s Permit Application Complete.

The St. Johns River Water Management District deems FDEP’s permit application complete. However, the District finds potential water quality issues with river restoration and informs FDEP that it cannot recommend approval of the permit at that time. FDEP requests that the District not take action on the permit application but rather hold the permit in abeyance indefinitely.

2002-09-01 10:28:05

United States Forest Service releases and Environmental Impact Statement calls for restoration of the Ocklawaha by partially removing the Rodman Dam.

USFS completed an EIS in 2002 that called for restoring the Ocklawaha and partially removing the Rodman dam to connect the river. They gave the state of Florida a special use permit to temporarily retain the Rodman dam and pool on USFS land based on the state’s commitment to complete the river restoration. The permit has lapsed, and the state of Florida is operating structures on USFS lands without a permit.

2003-02-05 00:00:00

Senator George K. Kirkpatrick Jr., supporter of the Rodman Dam passes away

Former Florida Senator George G. Kirkpatrick, Jr., a long-time supporter of preserving the Rodman Dam, passes away suddenly at age 64.

2006-10-23 00:00:00

Report Published Recommending Restoring the Rivers Natural Course for Manatee Access

A report entitled “A Survey of Florida Springs to Determine Accessibility to Florida Manatees (Trichechus manatus latirostris): Developing a Sustainable Thermal Network” is published by the U.S. Marine Mammal Commission.

2016-01-01 00:00:00

St. Johns River Water Management Report Published Concludes River Restoration is Feasible and Permittable

The St. Johns River Water Management District publishes a report concluding that total phosphorus is the constituent of concern for restoration of a free-flowing Ocklawaha River, and that the temporary increase due reestablishing a free-flowing river "is in the range of other permitted TP loads to the LSJR, and within the realm of reduction achieved by projects currently functioning elsewhere in the basin." The report essentially concludes that river restoration is feasible and permittable.

2016-04-01 00:00:00

United States Forest Service Pledges Full Support for River Restoration

Thomas Tidwell, Chief of the United States Forest Service, meets with a delegation representing Florida Defenders of the Environment including former Lieutenant Governor and Governor Buddy MacKay, former Secretary of the Florida Dept. of Environmental Resources and former Administrator US EPA Carol M. Browner, and John Hankinson, the former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 4 Administrator.

2017-10-01 02:31:11

Lawsuit After No Action Taken by U.S. Forest Service

After no action by the USFS, Florida Defenders of the Environment files a lawsuit against the U.S. Forest Service for failure to restore the Ocklawaha River.

2017-11-11 00:00:00

New UF Study Released, Restoring the Ocklawaha River Could Provide Better Economic Opportunity

University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences publishes a final report entitled "Economic Importance and Public Preferences for Water Resources Management of the Ocklawaha River". The report concludes that an "analysis of visitors' expenditures shows that the activities on the natural stretches of the Ocklawaha River result in greater contributions to the regional economy, compared to the recreation on the Rodman Reservoir sites". The report essentially concludes that a free-flowing river is economically favorable.

2018-01-01 03:29:15

Florida Defenders of the Environment Unsuccessfully Sue United States Forest Service

Florida Defenders of the Environment unsuccessfully sues the USFS to require the state to partially remove the dam to connect the river according to the 2002 agreement. The suit did not fail on the merits of restoration but on an issue of organizational standing.

2019-01-22 19:51:12

Drawdown of the Rodman Dam starts

During drawdown the water levels go from an average of 18′ – 20′ down to approximately 11′. Environmental groups say that drawdown mimics what partial restoration of the Rodman Dam would look like and gives a glimpse of a river and forest that once existed. During drawdown it exposes the floodplain of cypress stumps that once grew before the Rodman Dam was built. The flooded springs start to come back to life and the river starts to recover during the drawdown. However, after drawdown the Rodman Reservoir raises back to its water level of roughly 18’-20’ and the stumps go back under water as well as the springs, no longer exposing their beauty and no longer allowing them to come back to life.

2019-04-01 03:02:47

Florida Department of Environmental Protection Update Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway State Recreation and Conservation Plan. Continues to say the Ocklawaha River should be partially restored.

FDEP’s Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway State Recreation and Conservation Plan is updated and continues to say “The Governor and Cabinet, sitting as the Board of Trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund, have an established policy that the Ocklawaha River should be “partially restored” with the FDEP as the lead agency. However, the Legislature has not appropriated funds for this purpose. If funds are made available and permits are issued, it is the intent of the FDEP to undertake this restoration.” “Partial restoration is intended to restore river hydrology and floodplain function to near preconstruction conditions through breaching the dam, with limited removal and/or alteration of structures and alteration of the topography. This alternative will retrieve National Forest System lands at the lowest cost while restoring river and floodplain hydrology.

2019-10-01 17:08:05

Event Leads to New Coalition-Free the Ocklawaha River Coalition

Twenty-five conservation leaders representing a wide variety of groups convened for a full day retreat at Silver Springs Conference Center. Organized by St. Johns River Keeper and environmental advocate Margaret Spontak, the event resulted in naming of a new coalition – Free the Ocklawaha River Coalition. The Coalition boasts more than 33 member organizations and has active communications, advocacy and science committees that have reinvigorated the efforts to restore the Ocklawaha. Twenty-five conservation leaders representing a wide variety of groups convened for a full day retreat at Silver Springs Conference Center. Organized by St. Johns River Keeper and environmental advocate Margaret Spontak, the event resulted in naming of a new coalition – Free the Ocklawaha River Coalition. The Coalition boasts more than 33 member organizations and has active communications, advocacy and science committees that have reinvigorated the efforts to restore the Ocklawaha. Twenty-five conservation leaders representing a wide variety of groups convened for a full day retreat at Silver Springs Conference Center. Organized by St. Johns River Keeper and environmental advocate Margaret Spontak, the event resulted in naming of a new coalition – Free the Ocklawaha River Coalition. The Coalition boasts more than 33 member organizations and has active communications, advocacy and science committees that have reinvigorated the efforts to restore the Ocklawaha.

2019-11-01 00:00:00

Jennifer Carr becomes new President of Florida Defenders of the Environment

Jennifer Carr becomes President of Florida Defenders of the Environment fifty years after her grandmother Marjorie Harris Carr founded the organization.

2020-01-28 00:00:00

Ocklawaha River is Ranked as the Second Most Important River for Dam Removal

Based on a new assessment tool, the Southeast Aquatic Connectivity Partnership ranks the Ocklawaha River as the second most important river in Florida for dam removal in terms of restoring aquatic connectivity. The dam in question is the Rodman/Kirkpatrick Dam on Ocklawaha River.

2020-03-01 00:00:00

Free the Ocklawaha Coalition Launches 12-Month Campaign

The Coalition launches a 12-month campaign leading up to the 2021 legislative session which included an intense social and print media plan, grass roots supporter outreach, economic assessment and legislative strategy.

2020-04-14 00:00:00

Ocklawaha River Named One of the Most Endangered Rivers in the United States

The nonprofit organization American Rivers, Inc. announces that the Ocklawaha River is among the most endangered rivers in the United States due to the continuing presence of the Kirkpatrick Dam.

2020-09-30 05:15:54

The Free the Ocklawaha Coalition Launches Focus Groups and Creates Potential Recreational Plans

The Coalition engages UF Landscape Design Students in conceptual recreation planning, launches a series for user focus groups and develops made for television production to air in early December and throughout the 50th Anniversary of the halting of the Cross Florida Barge Canal in January 2021.

2020-12-02 00:00:00

Free the Ocklawaha Coalition launches new regional brand, The Great Florida Riverway

Free the Ocklawaha Coalition launches a regional brand, The Great Florida Riverway, with a logo, online program, website, media campaign and action alert to the governor.

2020-12-09 00:00:00

Unveiling of Conceptual Projects for Restoration & Recreation

UF College of Landscape Design students unveil nine conceptual projects for restoration and recreation of the Ocklawaha and The Great Florida Riverway

2030-01-31 00:00:00

Let her one day flow free.

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Cross Florida Barge Canal & Rodman Dam History

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