Florida Suing Georgia Over Water to Save Apalachicola Bay - WMBB News 13 - The Panhandle's News Leader

Florida Suing Georgia Over Water to Save Apalachicola Bay

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A decades long fight for water comes to a head in Apalachicola.

Florida is suing the state of Georgia in a battle to save a failing oyster industry. 

It's been coined "the water wars" over the years. At the heart of the issue is the river flow down stream from the joint Apalachicola -Chattahoochee - Flint River (ACF) basins and how that water is shared between Georgia, Florida and Alabama.

Florida is alleging that Georgia's consumption has gone relatively unchecked, thus affecting how much fresh water flows into Florida's Apalachicola River; a necessary component to a healthy bay for oyster production that has taken a big hit in recent years.

It's that failing oyster industry that was on the hearts and minds of state leaders and local oysterman alike, Tuesday; a rally cry for change ringing out and a rededicated purpose to save a dying bay.

Spearheaded by US Senators Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson, a senate hearing on the affects of water flow to the bay addressed ways to solve a growing problem. That field hearing was a way to put on record the plight of the river and bay and those who live off it.

Rubio said the time to act is now.

"The importance of having that hearing today is to be able to go back to our colleagues in Washington and be able to explain to them what a dire situation this is. We don't have time and in a couple years, there may not be anybody left to save," he said.

A lack of fresh water, paired with increased salinity and drought have created a recipe for disaster that hasn't gone unnoticed.

Monday, NOAA declared a fishery failure for Florida's oystermen. It's an industry that serves 90% of Florida's supply.

"This is not just part of their traditions, this is their livelihood and to see it impacted by a manmade decision, by decisions being made by men, not by nature, not by some other change in the economy, but by a simple decision made by another state is just heartbreaking," said Rubio.

Tuesday's hearing drew testimony from prominent officials; namely, the Army Corps of Engineers, whose water management practices of the ACF River Basins have faced multiple legal challenges at the heart of a fierce regional war that, at times, Tuesday, pitted Georgia against Florida.

"For far too long, the people of Franklin County have been paying an extraordinary price to satisfy metro Atlanta's unquenchable thirst for fresh water," said Apalachicola Mayor, Van W. Johnson Sr.

"Georgia has not regulated the consumption of that water," said US Senator Bill Nelson.

"…and what's right is changing the rules to make water come down to the Apalachicola River. It is wrong what we've done," said Florida Senator Bill Montford.

Apalachicola rallied together, Tuesday. Leading the charge was Florida Governor Rick Scott, dropping a bombshell.

"Georgia has taken our water, the army corps hasn't cared about us, that's why the state of Florida is going to file suit, take it all the way to the Supreme Court, make sure we do the right things for the families living right here," said Scott.

Alongside Rubio and Congressman Steve Southerland, Scott vowed to save the dying industry and to fight this battle head on.