Friday, April 28, 2017

Earthjustice files suit to protect the Apalachicola River and Bay

The Environmental group Earthjustice has filed a lawsuit against the Army Corps of Engineers over its management of the Apalachicola Chattahoochee Flint River basin.

Earthjustice said the purpose of the suit is to compel the Corps to comply with federal environmental laws in its management of the river system.

Earthjustice is representing the National Wildlife Federation, the Florida Wildlife Federation, and the Apalachicola Riverkeeper in the federal suit filed Thursday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

The lawsuit claims that the Corps of Engineers failed to properly protect the environment when it developed a water management plan that will regulate freshwater flows through the ACF River system for decades to come. 

The lawsuit also argues that the Corps’ plan, and the environmental impact statement used to develop the plan, violate several federal environmental laws including the National Environmental Policy Act, the Water Resources Development Act, and the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act.

The suit asks the Court to order the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to re-do the water management plan and environmental impact statement to comply with federal environmental laws. 

Apalachicola Riverkeeper Dan Tonsmeier said “A whole way of life in the seafood industry is being pulled apart before our eyes. It’s a heartless allocation that unnecessarily hurts Florida.”

He adde thadt The ecosystem can come back if our leaders manage the river in a way that doesn’t favor some interests over others. 

The lawsuit is the latest move in the decades long water war between Florida and Georgia over how water is allocated in the river system.

The new water control manual allows Georgia to withdraw 242 million gallons per day from Lake Lanier and up to 379 million gallons a day by 2050.

Florida has argued that Georgia’s unchecked water consumption has brought historically-low water flows into the Apalachicola Bay and has caused oysters to die because of higher salinity, increased disease and predator intrusion.

Until recently, Apalachicola Bay accounted for approximately 10 percent of the nation’s Eastern oyster supply. 

The oyster industry in Apalachicola collapsed in 2012 leading to a Commercial Fisheries Disaster Declaration from the U.S. Department of Commerce in 2013.