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Judge refuses to reconsider Rodman dam challenge

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(smittypaddler@gmail.com)

A federal judge has refused to reconsider his decision to toss out a lawsuit alleging that the state has operated North Florida’s Rodman dam without a required federal permit. U.S. District Judge Harvey Schlesinger last week rejected a request by Florida Defenders of the Environment and two individual plaintiffs to reconsider a Sept. 30 decision to dismiss the case.

The Rodman dam, which has been a controversial issue in North Florida for decades, was built as part of the Cross Florida Barge Canal project. That project, which was originally planned to create a barge canal from Northeast Florida to Yankeetown on the Gulf Coast, dammed the Ocklawaha River. It was halted by the federal government in 1971, but the dam and the Rodman Reservoir remained. Environmentalists have sought to remove the dam to try to restore the flow of the Ocklawaha but have faced opposition from many state leaders and local officials in areas such as Putnam County.

The federal lawsuit, filed in 2017, contended that Florida, which operates the reservoir, did not have a required federal permit for part of the dam that is in the Ocala National Forest. It said the state received what is known as a “special use permit” to occupy the federal land in 1994 but that the permit has long been expired and not renewed.

But in the Sept. 30 ruling, Schlesinger sided with the U.S. Forest Service, which was the defendant in the case, and dismissed the lawsuit. The plaintiffs filed a motion in October seeking reconsideration of the decision, but Schlesinger issued a two-page order last week denying the request.