Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Senators hear testimony on status of the Apalachicola Bay

US Senators Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson held a committee hearing in Apalachicola on Tuesday to get testimony on decreased water flows in the Apalachicola River and the impacts that is having on the Apalachicola Bay.

A federal oyster fishery failure in the Apalachicola Bay was declared by the Department of Commerce this week.

The cause, in part, was because of decreased water flows into the Bay.

Some of the decreased flow was caused by a drought across the southeast, though increased water usage from areas north of Florida have also been blamed.

Last year set a record for the lowest flow into the Bay since records have been kept, but it was not the least amount of rain we have ever seen.

Senator Bill Nelson opened the hearing by saying that there are three ways that water flows could restored, one way is that congress could require that Georgia allow enough freshwater flow through the system to feed the Bay, but that option has already been tried and failed.

The second option is for the Governors of Alabama, Georgia and Florida to agree on a solution, but after over 20 years of meetings and lawsuits, that seems unlikely.

The third, and most viable option, is administrative action by the Army Corps of Engineers, which oversees how water is used in the river system.

Senator Nelson said “just because we are located at the bottom of the river doesn’t mean our interests should be at the bottom of anyone’s list.”

Senator Rubio said the hearing had two purposes – the first was to continue to build a congressional record on the water flow issue, the second was to continue to look for other tools to solve the water flow problem especially as it deals with the Corps of engineers.

A number of groups were invited to testify at the hearing, including Congressman Steve Southerland, The US Army Corps of Engineers, The National Marine Fisheries Commission, and the Northwest Florida Water Management District.

Local groups that testified included the Apalachicola Riverkeeper, The Franklin County Seafood Workers Association, and the University of Florida Seagrant program. e-mail with comments