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Florida Sues in Wake of Oyster Industry Collapse

Stan Kirkland
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

The state of Florida is suing Georgia over its increased consumption of water that is limiting flow to the Apalachicola River.

Gov. Rick Scott said today Florida needs to take drastic action because it has been unable to negotiate a settlement for the last decades on how to allocate water between Florida, Georgia and Alabama.

“Because Georgia has not negotiated in good faith to fairly share the waters that flow between our two states, we are announcing today that Florida will bring suit in the U.S. Supreme Court next month to stop Georgia’s unchecked consumption of water that threatens the existence of Apalachicola fisheries and the future economic development of this region," the governor said.

“This lawsuit will be targeted toward one thing - fighting for the future of Apalachicola. This is a bold, historic legal action for our state," Gov. Scott said. "But this is our only way forward after 20 years of failed negotiations with Georgia. We must fight for the people of this region. The economic future of Apalachicola Bay and Northwest Florida is at stake.”

Florida's step is an escalation in years of litigation.
Florida has previously sued the Army Corps of Engineers, which manages the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river system. But a recent ruling went against Florida in its push to limit Georgia's withdrawals.
Florida's oyster industry has neared collapse in the last two years because of reduced water flow from the Apalachicola into the Gulf of Mexico and because of drought.

"Without more freshwater, this region's economy could find itself in jeopardy to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars." --U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson

Also, the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee held a field hearing today in Apalachicola, featuring Florida Senators Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio.Sen. Nelson said the withdrawal of water upstream from the Apalachicola River in Georgia and Alabama is affecting the Gulf's fisheries.

"The river and the bay here in Apalachicola are the true economic engines of this region," Nelson said. "And, without more freshwater, this region's economy could find itself in jeopardy to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars."

Nelson adds that he and Sen. Rubio remain optimistic that Congress will appropriate funds to help the area recover, ensuring the flow of water be properly dispersed among Alabama, Georgia, and Florida.

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