Florida Governor Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi followed through on their threat to sue Georgia over its water use that they blame for decimating Apalachicola's oyster industry. Here's the release:
Florida Takes Historic Legal Action Against Georgia in Fight to Save Apalachicola Bay
TAMPA, FL – Today, Florida Governor Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi announced that the State of Florida has filed suit against Georgia to stop its unchecked and growing consumption of water that continues to harm the families of Northwest Florida.
Governor Rick Scott said, “Georgia has refused to fairly share the waters that flow between our two states, so to stop Georgia’s unmitigated consumption of water we have brought the matter before the U.S. Supreme Court. Georgia’s over-consumption of water threatens the existence of Apalachicola Bay and the future economic development of the region. Generations of Florida families have relied upon these waters for their livelihood, but now risk losing their way of life if Georgia’s actions are not stopped. Through this historic legal action we are fighting for the future of Apalachicola Bay and its families. After 20 years of failed negotiations with Georgia, this is our only way forward in securing the economic future of Northwest Florida.”
Attorney General Pam Bondi said, "I am proud to join Governor Scott in this fight to protect Florida's fair share of water from Georgia's over-consumption, which is devastating Apalachicola Bay's ecosystem."
Florida and Alabama have each sought relief from harm caused by reduced flows and increased Georgia consumption in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (ACF) River Basins over the past 20 years through legal challenges, without success. Florida now proposes to address the problem squarely – an Original Action filed with the U.S. Supreme Court seeking injunctive relief against Georgia’s unmitigated and unsustainable upstream consumption of water from the Chattahoochee and Flint River Basins.
Apalachicola River water levels are impacted by withdrawals from the Chattahoochee and Flint Rivers at all times. The Metro-Atlanta area primarily obtains its water from the Chattahoochee River, with withdrawals totaling 360 million gallons per day. Georgia’s consumption is expected to nearly double to approximately 705 million gallons per day by 2040, as Atlanta’s population and associated water withdrawals grow unchecked. That estimated daily consumption represents the approximate water volume of the entire Apalachicola Bay on an annual basis.
Historically-low water levels brought about by Georgia’s excessive consumption have caused oysters to die because of higher salinity, increased disease and predator intrusion in the Bay. Until recently, Apalachicola Bay accounted for approximately 10 percent of the nation’s Eastern oyster supply. However, the oyster industry in Apalachicola collapsed in 2012 after years of reduced flows of freshwater into the Bay, leading Governor Scott to seek and obtain a Commercial Fisheries Disaster Declaration from the U.S. Department of Commerce earlier this year.