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Tuesday, Sep 02, 2014
Editorials

Taking a stand for Apalachicola Bay

Published:   |   Updated: August 15, 2013 at 07:13 AM

Gov. Rick Scott took a strong and necessary stand on behalf of imperiled Apalachicola Bay by announcing Tuesday that Florida would sue Georgia in an effort to reduce its diversion of fresh water that should make its way to the estuary.

It is unfortunate that litigation is necessary, but the compliant U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has done little to curtail Georgia’s wanton water use, and Apalachicola Bay’s condition is dire.

Its famed oyster fishery has collapsed. U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker on Monday declared a commercial fishery disaster of Apalachicola oysters.

This should help the oystermen who have seen their catch plummet by 60 percent become eligible for aid.

But what’s most needed is adequate freshwater flow to Apalachicola Bay, whose health is dependent on a mix of fresh and saltwater.

Congress has refused to help, despite the efforts of Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio.

The problem is Georgia allowed runaway growth around Atlanta without adequate planning for water sources.

The region now depends on water from Lake Lanier, though the reservoir was created by a dam project intended for flood control, navigation and hydropower, not water supply.

Only recently has Georgia stressed water conservation.

All this should be a lesson to Scott, who in his first year in office mistakenly jettisoned state growth management policies that were designed to prevent such short-sighted development decisions.

In any event, he recognizes the need to act now on behalf of the endangered water body once famed for its seafood production.

Florida and Alabama, which also is losing needed fresh water to Georgia’s diversions, vainly tried a lawsuit against the Army Corps. But this time Florida is suing Georgia directly, and there is little question that the neighboring state’s massive water withdrawals are harming Florida’s environment and economy.

Scott is on target when he says, “Georgia has not negotiated in good faith” and that “The economic future of Apalachicola Bay and Northwest Florida is at stake.”

We hope Georgia finally shows regard for its neighbor and works out a reasonable agreement. But history suggests our governor is wise not to rely on Georgia’s good will.

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