TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Gov. Rick Scott requested an economic injury declaration Wednesday for Franklin County as a result of impacts to the region's commercial oyster fishery.
In a letter to the U.S. Small Business Administration, Scott explained that the Florida Panhandle county is suffering a significant injury because of a failure of its commercial oyster fishery. He argues that the economic injury meets the threshold for an SBA declaration.
"The economy of Apalachicola and Franklin County is tied inextricably to the commercial seafood industry, which is heavily dependent on a healthy natural ecosystem," Scott wrote.
Florida experienced an unprecedented decline in the supply of oysters within Apalachicola Bay last summer, Scott said. This was caused by a lack of necessary freshwater inflows to support productive oyster communities.
Rep. Steve Southerland, R-Panama City, said in a prepared statement, "An Economic Injury Declaration through the SBA would be a critical step forward for local small businesses that are struggling to survive in the wake of our commercial oyster fishery failure."
Florida moved forward with a lawsuit earlier this month that accuses Georgia of consuming too much fresh water from a river system that serves three Southeastern states. The legal action filed directly with the U.S. Supreme Court is an escalation in a legal dispute lasting more than two decades.
The suit asks the high court to take some dramatic steps, including capping Georgia's overall water use at levels existing in 1992. Florida also wants a special master to enter a decree that would "equitably" divide the waters in the basin of the Apalachicola, Chattahoochee and Flint rivers.