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Lawmakers And Locals Critique Army Corps' River Plan

Congresswoman Gwen Graham speaking with Army Corps of Engineers Colonel Jon Chytka.
Nick Evans

The Apalachicola Bay community is voicing its concerns over a draft water plan issued by the Army Corps of Engineers.  The regulation could have a dramatic impact on the region’s oyster industry.

The Army Corps of Engineers is preparing to implement a new plan for the Apalachicola Chattahoochee Flint river basin.  But many in the panhandle say the Apalachicola Bay will suffer because the plan doesn't give enough weight to environmental impacts in the bay.  And the stakes are high.  The region’s oyster industry—an anchor for the local economy—is reeling, and it depends on fresh water to support the growth of wild oyster populations.

Just over a month ago, members from both sides of Florida’s congressional delegation took issue with the plan, and Monday the Corps hosted a public meeting to gather comment from the local community. 

Democratic Congresswoman Gwen Graham came out to urge them to consider the downstream impact of their changes.

“They are allowed to consider many different factors in determining whether federal action is going to have a negative impact on those users of the ACF basin,” Graham says.  “And the downstream users are just as much a part of the ACF basin as the upstream users.”

For decades, drought and agricultural demand upriver have depleted freshwater flow before it meets the bay.

But the Corps’ scope of authority ends almost seven miles upriver.  Officials say the plan still considers potential impacts on the bay but they’re prohibited from making decisions specifically to protect its ecosystem.