The Kirkpatrick Dam, located in Putnam County, has recently had its status changed from low hazard to high hazard.
“We never build dams for the purpose of recreation because it just doesn’t make sense,” said Jim Gross, executive director of the Florida Defenders of the Environment. “There isn’t enough economic return just for recreation to merit the building, the cost and maintenance of the dam.”
The dam, built 53 years ago, was meant to be a part of a canal project to provide drinking water and create a straight for ships to go through Florida. Funding for the project was discontinued. But the dam remains. And now, it’s a part of the Rodman Reservoir, blocking free-flowing water from the Ocklawaha River.
The Florida Defenders of the Environment is working with a coalition of environmental nonprofits to restore natural-water habits by removing dams such as the Kirkpatrick Dam.
Dams are mostly built for water supply, power generation, flood control and commercial navigation. With the only use of the dam being recreational, these organizations say that it is more damaging than beneficial, especially for the environment.
The hazard level of a dam is made by determining what the level of damage could be if there was a failure of a dam. High hazard means there would be high property damage and loss of life.
The Kirkpatrick Dam is an embankment dam that is primarily made from sand, one of the riskiest materials for this type of project. Sand can create undetectable leaks until a pipping failure occurs, during which the sand gets washed out through an underground channel.
“This dam is a net loss as it currently stands. It could be a net benefit, economic benefit, recreational benefit [to] the people of Florida and the ecological benefit for to the people of Florida if we move forward with restoration, so it’s the right thing to do – the right time to do it,” Gross said.
For the dam to be removed, officials in the state would need to make a political decision to start the removal process, which has yet to happen.