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Water Issues Bubble Over At Apalachicola Rally [GALLERY]

By: Eyewitness News Email
By: Eyewitness News Email
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Franklin County, FL - Florida's U.S. Senators took a step to try and save a hurting Apalachicola Bay today.

Senators Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio held a congressional hearing in Franklin County to focus on the problems of the oyster industry.

Franklin County residents came out in droves to voice their concerns about the lack of water flow into the Apalachicola Bay. The water wars with Georgia that have been going on for more than two decades could be about to boil over...

Senator Marco Rubio: "What's happening now? I mean, are people leaving? what does it look like for people in the real world, I mean what are they doing, how are they dealing with this and how much longer can they hold on?"

If Sen. Rubio wanted to know how the oystermen are dealing with a crippled industry, he should have asked James Cooper.

James Cooper, Oysterman: it's changed my whole life, I've lost my house...almost had to file bankruptcy."

Cooper is just one of the many faces of an oyster industry hard hit by lack of water flow down from Georgia. A more than two decade water sharing dispute has forced Florida Governor Rick Scott to take action.

Governor Rick Scott: "They've kept our water, it's been going on for decades, Florida's going to file suit to make sure it stops. We've got to take care of the individuals that live in this community, make sure we take care of the flow of water down here, make sure we get livelihoods back.

US Senators Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio held a congressional hearing to address the issue in Franklin County. They questioned panels, including the Army Corps of Engineers, on what the options are to get more freshwater into the bay.

Senator Nelson: "We're going to probably have a knock down drag out with our colleagues in Georgia to try and change the law-- if enough people gripe and grumble about things we might get something done"

In a statement, Georgia Governor Deal said the lawsuit was "absurd." Gov. Deal further responded to Governor Scott's call for a lawsuit by calling the threat a 'waste of time and money'.
Gov. Deal says he offered an agreement over a year ago, and that Gov. Scott never responded.

[SEE BELOW FOR ADDITIONAL STORIES & MAP OF RIVER]


Associated Press Release

APALACHICOLA, Fla. (AP) -- The U.S. Senate Commerce Committee is holding a field hearing in the Panhandle to hear first-hand about the near-collapse of the state's oyster industry.

Both U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson will attend the hearing being held in the Franklin County Courthouse.

Rubio asked for the hearing so fellow senators can understand the "dire impacts" that decreased flows of freshwater have had on oysters in Apalachicola Bay. Most of Florida's oysters come out of the bay.

Senators are scheduled to hear from both state and federal officials about the conditions in the bay.

Federal authorities on Monday declared a fishery disaster for those who harvest oysters out of the Gulf of Mexico. The declaration sets the stage for possible help from the federal government if Congress approves it.


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