(4.93) HISTORY - 2014 Ocklawaha River Restoration Implementation (USFS - 13)
Selected Excerpts in ITALICS From:
Ocklawaha River Restoration Implementation
(United States Forest Service - 13)
Prepared for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection
By the United States Forest Service, United States Department of Agriculture
Circa: 09 April 2014
An Information & Sources Report
Compiled by Ocklawahaman Paul Nosca
Created: 13 September 2015
Last Revised: 23 October 2017
FLORIDA GULF OF MEXICO RESTORATION
PROJECT SUBMITTAL FORM
New Project X
Project Name: Ocklawaha River Restoration Implementation (USFS - 13)
Natural Resources Staff Officer
National Forests in Florida
325 John Knox Rd, Suite F-100
Tallahassee, FL 32303
Location Description: Ocala National Forest
River Subbasins: Oklawaha
Counties: Marion, Putnam
Project Centroid Coordinate: -81° 50' 49.413”, 29° 31' 5.117”
Project Map Attached
In 1942 Congress authorized the construction of the Cross Florida Barge Canal. Originally designed as a ship canal running from the Gulf Coast to the St. Johns River, the project impounded the Ocklawaha River. The construction of the barge canal itself began in 1964 and the Kirkpatrick Dam was built in 1968, flooding 3,400 acres of floodplain forest. When the Kirkpatrick Dam was completed in 1968, the resulting impoundment named the Rodman Reservoir flooded another 4,000 acres. Surrounded in controversy for decades, the project was officially deauthorized by Congress in 1991 and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers transferred their land interest and structures in the Cross Florida Barge Canal to the State of Florida. The National Forests, however, retained their land interests, requiring the State to apply for a Special Use Permit for occupancy of National Forest lands. In 1993, the Florida Legislature authorized a study to determine the feasibility of restoring the Ocklawaha River or retention of the dam and reservoir. The study, completed in 1994 by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, was followed by a mandate from Governor Lawton Chiles in 1995 for the state to “proceed immediately in applying for permits to restore the Ocklawaha River and in moving forward with a plan to begin an orderly and phased drawdown of the Rodman Reservoir.” In 2000, Governor Bush re-iterated his support for the restoration. The National Forests in Florida completed an EIS for restoration of the river in 2001. Political support since then has been mixed and funding for the restoration project has not been approved by the state.
The Preferred Alternative chosen was Partial Restoration. Major components of Alternative 3, Partial Restoration, include:
1. A drawdown of the reservoir to be accomplished in three phases.
2. Limited construction of channel stabilization and erosion control structures in the Ocklawaha River.
3. Limited planting of native plant species to provide for erosion control.
4. Partial leveling of the exposed barge canal side-cast spoil berms.
5. Restoration of the historic Ocklawaha River channel flow by filling the barge canal where it intersects the river channel.
6. Restoration of the historic Deep Creek channel flow by filling the barge canal where it intersects the creek channel.
7. Restoration of the historic Camp Branch floodplain and channel flow by filling the barge canal where it intersects the creek channel.
8. Closure and securing of Buckman Lock.
9. Removal of 2,000 feet of Kirkpatrick Dam.
10. Partial filling and restoration of the spillway tailrace to natural grade.
11. Development and implementation of a cultural resources operating plan.
12. Continued current management of Eureka Lock and Dam.
Since the completion of the EIS in 2001, a number of issues have emerged. Eutrophication of Silver Spring has accelerated and the role of the Rodman Reservoir in filtering nutrients from the St. Johns River downstream has been raised and needs to be assessed. The St. Johns population of the Florida Manatee is almost entirely dependent on warm water springs for winter refugia. Unhindered access of the springs beneath the Rodman Reservoir could increase if the Ocklawaha River was free flowing and this could significantly aid in Manatee Recovery efforts. The popularity of the Reservoir with bass fisherman has continued to grow and alternatives to assess retention of a portion of the reservoir as a recreational fishery while enabling a free flowing Ocklawaha River have not be thoroughly assessed.
Restoring the floodplain forest that historically existed on National Forest system lands is in the best interests of the public. It is compatible with the goals of long-term health of forest ecosystems stated in the Revised Forest and Land Management Plan for the National Forests in Florida. As emphasized in the Final EIS for the Revised Plan, those goals include maintaining and restoring ecosystem composition, structure and function within their natural range of variability, managing floodplains, groundwater, riparian areas, springs and wetlands to protect or enhance their individual values and ecological functions, and conserving and protecting important elements of diversity.
Funding in the amount of $20 million is required to implement the 2001 EIS Record of Decision for the partial restoration of the Ocklawaha River, with additional modification following the recommendations of the technical assessment and feasibility study. The State of Florida has not implemented this decision due to a lack of funding.
Funding for this project will be used to leverage additional funding from Federal (e.g., USDA Forest Service and USDA NRCS), state (Florida DEP) and private (e.g., NFWF, TNC) sources.
The National Forests in Florida staff have successfully completed numerous projects such as the proposed project. Our staff have the technical experience and the tools necessary to complete the project within the proposed time frame.
This proposed project will greatly enhance and complement recent efforts to restore natural ecosystems and hydrologic regimes on the Ocklawaha River and Ocala National Forest.
This project will fully comply with all federal, state, local, and tribal laws and regulations.
EIS completed 2001, additional assessment and implementation required.
This project will help restore the floodplain forest that historically existed on National Forest system lands. In addition it will allow for maintenance and restoration of ecosystem composition, structure and function within their natural range of variability, managing floodplains, groundwater, riparian areas, springs and wetlands to protect or enhance their individual values and ecological functions, and conserving and protecting important elements of diversity. It will also aid in manatee recovery efforts.
Increased tourism and benefits to fisheries resources.
Potential mitigation of flood risk to neighboring communities.
The National Forests in Florida works closely with our public stakeholders to ensure that our projects are strategically planned and implemented. Based on past experience with similar projects we anticipate broad public support for the proposed project.
Estimated project costs are based on the unit costs of similar projects that have already been successfully implemented. At this stage of proposal submission, the USFS has not itemized all project costs which can readily be calculated based on prior projects of similar nature. While there are planning, monitoring and project costs, most costs associated with this project are in implementation and contracts for specified restoration work. Since the “Cost Appendix Sheet” does not capture all USFS expected costs (e.g., restoration, etc.), an estimated amount has been placed in the “Other” row of the “Cost Estimate” column of the “Planning” table below.
“Cost Estimate” = $20,000,000
“Contingency” = $2,000,000
“TOTAL” = $22,000,000
REFERENCE AS: Nosca, P. 2015. "2014 Ocklawaha River Restoration Implementation (United States Forest Service - 13)" webpage report. "Ocklawahaman Paul Nosca reports" website. Paul Nosca, Eureka, FL.