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CONTROVERSIAL ECOSYSTEM — Part of the Rodman Reservoir is seen during a boat ride in February during a periodic drawdown of the reservoir’s water level.

As a fan and avid reader of The Beacon, I was disappointed by your biased, un-factual report on Rodman Reservoir in nearby Putnam County. You see, what you reported was not the Rodman I know.

As an avid fisherman and student of the environment, I spend considerable time each year on Rodman Reservoir and the Ocklawaha River. My formal training includes a degree in fisheries science and limnology, something I’ve put to use when learning more about the challenges facing Florida’s lakes and wetlands.

No, the Rodman I know is one of great environmental beauty — some of the greatest in our area. On any given day, it’s common to see numerous bald eagles, otters, manatees and several gigantic alligators all throughout the reservoir.

It’s important here to explain just what’s happened with the formation of Rodman.

Building of the dam created, in essence, a gigantic wetland, filled with numerous varieties of aquatic plants — both native and invasive — including cattails, spatterdock, pennywort and water lettuce.

Such brings up a good point. Your previous story claimed Rodman was simply a “water-lettuce farm.” However, it’s common knowledge that this invasive plant clogs nearly every waterway in the area — including the unaltered, natural states of the Ocklawaha. However, this and other floating plants provide incredible fish habitat; in fact, our beloved speckled perch, also known as crappie, prefers water lettuce to just about any other habitat.

Getting back to the point: Rodman — from corner to corner — is one of the most diverse, prolific waterbodies in the state, due to dense habitat for fish and wildlife. All of those stumps included in your photo hold vast populations of bass, bream, speckled perch and other game fish that use the nooks and crannies to both hide and feed during normal water levels. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission sampling confirms that Rodman is one of the most prolific waterbodies in the central part of the state; visiting anglers agree.

Such brings up another hot topic: revenue and monetary gain in the area. Your author, again, incorrectly assumes that ecotourism can benefit the area as much, or more, than the economic gain created by fishermen. This is absolutely false.

I’m a big fan of ecotourism, and take advantage of it wherever possible, but the revenue generated by fishermen at Rodman is infinitely greater than what is, or could be, generated by tour boats, should the reservoir disappear.

Think about it: Every fisherman on the lake spends significant dollars in fuel for boats and tow vehicles, fishing tackle, bait, licensing and more — all costs that eco-related tourists don’t pay.

Also, to think that throngs of ecotourists would show up to this remote location is a faulty assumption. Again, while ecotourism is a very large draw to places like Silver Springs, tours are available now on the Ocklawaha River near Eureka, yet patron numbers are far less than similar outfits around urban centers.

It was likely a similar tour service that guided the author of your previous piece.

Such is common during drawdown periods — a few tours offer “environmentalists” the chance to see Rodman at low pool, offering a misguided view of the old trees and springs. Yet, I rarely, if ever, see these same patrons aboard tour boats during normal pool levels, when Rodman is alive and thriving with all of the previously mentioned fish and wildlife.

Also, regarding the springs: Again, your author attempts to pull a sympathetic ear in a misguided way. The springs are still there — no one plugged them up! They continue to release water into Rodman at any pool level — again, providing beneficial waters to fish in the reservoir. It’s common knowledge that the spring areas often provide some of the best fishing.

My point is this: I encourage anyone attempting to form an opinion of Rodman Reservoir to go there and see for themselves. Very little compares in terms of beauty of the unobstructed river and the reservoir. What’s done is done.

With the creation of this beautiful waterbody came the creation of one of the most diverse, ecologically important wetland areas in Central Florida. Losing Rodman would be a major environmental setback, not a gain.

Hate to see environmental destruction and forests destroyed? Want to work for a just environmental cause? Start by looking in our own backyard, at the clear-cutting and urban sprawl happening all around DeLand. I don’t see any eagles and alligators in the subdivisions.

— Balog lives in DeLand.