There was a “Town Hall” meeting in Palatka on February 9 featuring the local politicians and a representative from the Jacksonville/ Duval County Chamber of Commerce. A handful of environmentalists attended, but did not speak as the room was filled with venom. The group SAVE RODMAN was there en masse (and the school auditorium was still only half-filled). The testimony was mostly bashing of the poor Chamber representative for having agreed to seek funding from the legislature to restore the Ocklawaha River as a mitigation for proposed dredging of the St. Johns River in Jacksonville. There was lots of misinformation and emotion thrown around the room… mostly economic and scientific. One of the biggest exaggerations that Save Rodman keeps spouting is the fact that bass fishing in the Rodman Pool generates $40 million per year. Even if the contestants in the bass tournaments were allowed to fish in the pool, this figure is astounding. The fact is that, by rule, contestants in the Bass Anglers Sports Society (B.A.S.S.) tourneys are not allowed to fish in the pool. Of the 16 miles around the flooded portion of the old river, there are NO bait and tackle shops. In fact there are none within 5 miles of the water body in Putnam County. Another great misinformation is the myth about the “Pool” being a water supply source. At this juncture, it is simply a fishing hole. That’s all. It is impaired with nutrients and choked with invasive plant life. Many Palatkans hollered that the outsiders would never “take away their drinking water and their jobs.” I’m still trying to imagine just which jobs and what water they referred to. But I was able to conclude that local politicians must sell out to “foreigners” in situations like this in order to keep their political lives afloat. And they did it very well last week in Palatka.
-Whitey Markle, Conservation Chair