A conference in Tallahassee is bringing together political officials, academics and conservation agencies who hope to make the Apalachicola River’s health a national discussion.
More water flows through the Apalachicola River than any other in Florida, and stakeholders from within state and beyond are convening to talk about its preservation.
Craig Diamond is on the board of Apalachicola Riverkeeper, an organization focused solely on saving what it calls “an American treasure.”
“The folks in the room — we’ve got political officials, elected officials, we’ve got academics, we’ve got conservation advocacy organizations and then we’ve got folks that are directly involved with success or failure of recovering the Apalachicola. From federal agencies, state agencies and other authorities,” Diamond said.
Diamond insists the goal is to get crucial recovery efforts into the national spotlight.
“The conference is all part of a larger effort to bring renewed attention both at the regional level and significantly at the national level … to use Senator Graham’s phrase, ‘To nationalize the Apalachicola River,’ something that’s long overdue,” Diamond said.
To pinpoint best practices in conservation and habitat recovery, Diamond says those at the conference are drawing ideas from the state’s effort to revitalize the Everglades – a task that’s been underway for generations.
Also up for discussion is the Florida v. Georgia “water wars” dispute currently ongoing in the Supreme Court. The case deals with apportionment of water from the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint or “ACF” river basin between the two states. Diamond says its result will have far-reaching impact.
“These are going to be touchstone events, the outcomes of which are going to affect how we recover the system, the timing of it, the funding needs, and the eventual levels of collaboration among all the parties – most of whom are here and participating,” Diamond said.
Dr. Cathy Phillips is a field supervisor with the Panama City Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office. She touts the importance of pulling agencies together, each representing a different facet of recovery efforts.
“So, we’re talking about an entire ecosystem. And the only way that you can really improve an ecosystem is gathering all stakeholders together with all their different authorities and different backgrounds and working collaboratively,” Phillips said.
To Phillips, collaboration extends beyond those in government and the private sector – it can mean reaching out to those who live near the river. Her organization has worked for years with private landowners on the Chipola River, which feeds into the Apalachicola, to restore its adjacent habitat.