A hearing officer has dealt Florida the nearest thing to a fatal blow in its long-running water war with Georgia. In a report last week, the special master, Senior U.S. Circuit Court Judge Paul J. Kelly Jr., found that Florida’s mismanagement – not Georgia’s use of water upstream – is more to blame for the collapse of Florida’s oyster industry in Apalachicola Bay. However sweeping the report, this case calls for a political accommodation and a smarter strategy for consuming shared state waters.
Florida has long complained that Georgia uses too much water from the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin. The Chattahoochee flows south from Georgia to join Alabama’s Flint River and become the Apalachicola River from the Florida state line to Apalachicola Bay. The bay used to produce 90 percent of all of Florida’s oysters and 10 percent of all the oysters consumed in the U.S. But these days, the industry has dwindled to almost nothing.
The balance of fresh and salt water in Apalachicola Bay is crucial to the growth and development of the oysters there. But the loss of fresh water flow during a 2013 drought turned the bay salty and so damaged the oyster beds that the […]