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Arguments Heard In Apalachicola Water Wars Case

The Apalachicola River feeds into the Apalachicola Bay.
The Apalachicola River feeds into the Apalachicola Bay.
The Apalachicola River feeds into the Apalachicola Bay.
Credit Kate Payne via WFSU
The Apalachicola River feeds into the Apalachicola Bay.

A U.S. Supreme Court appointed special master is considering whether Florida should get a larger share of the water flowing down the Apalachicola River. Judge Paul Kelly Jr. heard arguments in the case Thursday.

Over the past few decades, residents in Atlanta and farmers in South Georgia have drawn an increasing amount of water from the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river system, leaving less to feed the Apalachicola Bay. Over time that’s taken a toll.

“As an example some of the things that we have seen that the biologists and expert people that monitor the conditions of the river and bay is that our flood plain has been drying up. So we’ve lost trees, we’ve lost species. We had an ongoing drought that contributed to the collapse of the Apalachicola Bay’s oystering industry,” Ackerman said.

Georgia Ackerman is the current Apalachicola River Keeper—a sort of advocate for the river. Before Ackerman took the job, it was held by Dan Tonsmeire.

“The nutrients in the Bay are so depleted from the low water, not bringing those nutrients down that the entire Bay is depressed, really depressed situation and the only thing that’s going to help bring it back is more fresh water,” Tonsmeire said.

The argument about how to fairly share the water has lasted nearly 30 years. And experts say it’s not likely to end soon. After consideration, Special Master Kelly will give his recommendation to the Supreme court. The justices could accept his findings or reject them and ask for more arguments. Meanwhile, several other lawsuits are moving forward.

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