The Army Corps of Engineers is proposing new regulations for the Apalachicola-Chatahoochee-Flint River but 22 Florida Congressional Delegation members drafted a letter to the Corps, highlighting their concerns for the Apalachicola Bay.
Congresswoman Gwen Graham, Senators Marco Rubio, Bill Nelson and others rallied to voice concerns about the Army Corps of Engineer’s proposal. The Corps manages dam systems throughout the river basin. It extends 19,000 square miles across Georgia, Alabama and Florida. The proposed recommendations would reflect regional growth and development. But Graham says the new plans wouldn’t protect the Apalachicola Bay.
“It's time for the Army Corps to consider what is one of the most precious and important resources we have in the state of Florida. Not only from an economic standpoint and for the oyster industry but from a heritage standpoint,” she said."
Situated between the River Basin and the Gulf of Mexico, the Apalachicola Bay is an ecologically diverse and sensitive area. Apalachicola Riverkeeper Dan Tonsmeire says it’s the most diverse river system in North America. But the system is struggling due to increased salinity and decreased water flow.
“...1300 plants, forty reptiles, in different species. Those things become so stressed during a drought. During a natural drought, there are normal occurrences, but when we start lowering the flows lower than they’ve ever been, we can get to this sort of tipping point,” he said.
For decades, Florida and Georgia have fought over water rights. With Atlanta’s booming metropolitan area comes growing water needs, and less water flowing downriver. Graham says that’s where the system breaks down.
“The failure of the natural flow of freshwater has increased the salinity in the bay. And that delicate mixture of salt and freshwater is what oysters need to grow,” she said.
Graham says the bay is a vital ecosystem and a point of pride for North Floridians. She hopes the Corps will update plans to reflect the needs of those living downstream.
“...a solution that’s in the best interest of the entire ecosystem, from Atlanta flowing down through Georgia and Alabama into Florida and into the Gulf of Mexico. We all should be interested in and consider the importance of having a healthy ecosystem,” she said.
The Corp will hold open houses throughout the region before finalizing the plan. The last open house will be held in Eastpoint on November 5th.