‘It’s a sad thing’: Supreme Court sides with Georgia over Apalachicola water wars

Published: Apr. 1, 2021 at 6:37 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - A long-awaited ruling in the Florida-Georgia war for water came Thursday as the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously rejected Florida’s lawsuit that argued that Georgia is taking too much water from the state’s shared river system.

The lawsuit, filed by the state of Florida in 2013, argued that Georgia is taking too much water from the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River system, and that is a major factor in the oyster collapse in Apalachicola Bay.

In the ruling, Justice Amy Coney Barrett wrote that Florida has not shown that it is highly probably that Georgia’s alleged overconsumption played more than a trivial role in the collapse of Florida’s oyster fisheries.

Water and marine life advocates are frustrated as the oyster population, and the fisheries relying on them are hurting.

As the ruling stands, many are left wondering: where do we go from here?

Flowing waterways are the lifeblood for many North Florida communities, and many say they are now at risk.

Jack Rudloe, founder of the Gulf Specimen Marine Lab in Panacea, said, “It’s a sad thing. It’s a sad thing that the judge ruled that way, but it does not really surprise me.

In a statement from Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, she wrote, in part, that the ruling is disappointing for the thousands of families whose livelihoods depend on the waters of the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River basin.

The commissioner added that the water use contributes to the 98 percent decline in value of Florida’s oyster catch.

Florida Congressman Dr. Neal Dunn wrote in a press release, “The Supreme Court’s decision to dismiss the Florida v Georgia case is deeply disappointing. There are many in my district who are dependent on the Apalachicola River and will continue to be heavily impacted for years to come. As we move forward, I will keep working with state and local partners to help those that have been affected by this ongoing battle.”

“This needs to be a public issue,” added Rudloe.

Moving forward, advocates say we need to start working together. Rudloe said, “When we do that, we might be able to talk with the people of Georgia and come up with some kind of reasonable solutions to these things.”

There are solutions to bringing these rivers and the bay and the oysters back to health, but it’s going to take the collaboration of everyone and, most importantly, the businesses and residents in the area.

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