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Wily dam-saving bid tripped up in House

Environmentalists howl at a crafty attempt to rescue the Rodman.

By JULIE HAUSERMAN

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 29, 2000


TALLAHASSEE -- In a move one observer called "environmental blackmail," a North Florida lawmaker on Friday tried to tack an issue environmentalists hate -- the Rodman dam on the Ocklawaha River -- onto a bill they love -- Everglades cleanup.

The gambit by state Rep. Jim Fuller, R-Jacksonville, failed after another lawmaker invoked a rule that prevents two unrelated subjects from being pasted together on a single piece of legislation.

But it was one more blow to environmentalists in a session they say is chock-full of attempts to weaken laws designed to protect Florida's natural resources.

"They are not even being subtle," said Florida Wildlife Federation lobbyist David Gluckman. "They just don't seem to care."

Development and agriculture lobbyists, on the other hand, say they finally are making some gains for their industries this year with a business-friendly governor and a Republican-led Legislature.

The day's environmental cliff-hanger came just as lawmakers prepared to adjourn for the weekend. That's when Fuller tried to tack an amendment about the Rodman dam onto a multimillion-dollar Everglades cleanup bill.

The Rodman dam is the last vestige of the defunct Cross Florida Barge Canal. Environmentalists have been trying to get the dam torn down for years so the Ocklawaha River can again run free. But powerful North Florida lawmakers say the huge Rodman reservoir -- created by the controversial dam -- is a mecca for bass fishermen.

This year, lawmakers are trying to pass a bill to turn the Rodman Reservoir into an official state recreation area. The move would make it politically difficult for the state to ever tear down the dam and restore the Ocklawaha.

It's unclear whether the Rodman Reservoir bill will make it through the rush of legislation during the Legislature's final week. That's why Fuller tried to put the measure on a bill that Gov. Bush wants -- Everglades cleanup. State Sen. Jim King, R-Jacksonville, was prepared to offer a similar amendment in the Senate, but later said he would withdraw it.

"It's environmental blackmail," said Gluckman, the Florida Wildlife Federation lobbyist.

Questioned about the move, Fuller lambasted environmentalists for opposing the Rodman dam at all.

"They ought to be chaining themselves to this dam and saying: "Keep this here!' " Fuller said. "I'll tell you, they will beat your brains out if you hurt one stupid eagle nest in the middle of nowhere. But there's tons of eagles on the Rodman Reservoir, and they want to drain it!"

The House also gave tentative approval to a controversial measure dealing with pesticides. It would prevent the state from having landowners pay for cleanup when pesticides contaminate land and water. As long as the pesticide was used according to the label's directions, taxpayers would pay.

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