U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) filed legislation today that would require the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to send more freshwater south from Georgia into Apalachicola Bay.
The move comes one day after a Special Master appointed by the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against Florida in its ongoing dispute with Georgia over the state’s use of water from the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint Rivers.
For years, the Corps – which uses a system of reservoirs and dams to control the flow of water along the ACF river system – has been increasing the amount of water it sends to Georgia’s larger municipal areas such as Atlanta, where the Army Corps South Atlantic Division is headquartered. As a result, the amount of freshwater flowing south into Florida’s Apalachicola Bay has decreased dramatically, devastating the area’s oyster industry and local economy.
Florida sued Georgia in 2013, claiming that the lack of freshwater now flowing into Apalachicola Bay is threatening to destroy the oyster industry there. Florida asked the Court to cap the amount of water Georgia can use from the river, a request the Special Master denied yesterday.
In response to the Court’s decision, Nelson today filed legislation that would, among other things, explicitly require the Army Corps to send an adequate amount of freshwater south to Apalachicola Bay.
“The lack of freshwater flowing into Apalachicola Bay is having a devastating effect on the local oyster industry and local economy,” Nelson said. “The oystermen whose livelihood depends on having enough freshwater in the bay are relying on us to get this fixed.”
Nelson filed similar legislation in 2013. That measure, which was filed as an amendment to a broader water bill the Senate was considering at the time, was not included in the final water bill Congress approved that year.