Florida officials should use "every arrow in their quiver" to restore the flow of fresh water to the sapped Apalachicola River and Bay, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said Monday - including firing up another lawsuit in the state's water war with Georgia.
"Under the current regulatory regime, I am not optimistic that the Apalachicola Bay oyster industry will recover in the near term," Putnam said at a post-legislative session meeting with reporters where he also talked about the citrus industry and the state's water supply plan as well as the river system. "We need to be as aggressive as we can be in every venue ... to resolve this issue."
More than two decades of legal wrangling between Florida, Georgia and Alabama over the amount of water released downstream ended last year when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to consider an appeal of a federal court decision that gave the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers the authority to manipulate the water levels of Lake Lanier to meet Atlanta's water needs.
Since then, a prolonged drought and the lack of freshwater making its way down the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river system has contributed to the collapse of the oyster population in Apalachicola Bay, imperiling the region's economy.
"The things that we warned the court would be the consequences of inadequate water flow, but had not yet realized, have now been realized," Putnam said. "So you would hope that would open up another opportunity to get back in court."
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