U.S. House Panel Rejects Proposal To Federalize Florida-Georgia Water Dispute

Sep 23, 2013

Fishermen oystering in Apalachicola Bay.
Credit Stan Kirkland/FWC

Oysters in Northwest Florida are dying off from a lack of fresh water and the oyster industry is struggling because of it.

Much of the freshwater that would normally flow from Georgia into Apalachicola Bay is being cut off and redirected to Atlanta where the growing population needs more water.

Steve Southerland, a congressman who represents the North Florida district heavily hit by the water shortage, proposed a change to the way water management works between Florida and Georgia.

His proposal would have required the Army Corps of Engineers to get congressional approval before diverting the natural flow of water.

Southerland said in a House committee that the people in his district have been through enough and that the oyster industry is the area’s “last lifeline.”

“Already staggered by powerful storms, the Deepwater Horizon disaster, a fishing net ban, a shuttered paper mill, an ever-dwindling job market, and also 60 percent of their land is owned by the federal government, they are trapped,” he said.

House lawmakers rejected Southerland’s proposal and said it’s up to the states to work out an agreement.

While this initiative failed, the fight to end the water wars is not over.

Gov. Rick Scott said the state is going to sue Georgia over its increased consumption of water, and its affect on the Apalachicola Bay.

Scott said in a statement that, “the lawsuit will be targeted toward one thing – fighting for the future of Apalachicola.”