Apalachicola, FL (May 9, 2012) - This week the Apalachicola Riverkeeper issued calls for action to the Governors of Florida, Alabama and Georgia to mitigate economic and ecological impacts from the prolonged drought conditions that all three states are experiencing.
The Riverkeeper also is seeking action from Senator Nelson, the federal government and the Northwest Florida Water Management District. According to reports by the Southeast Climate Consortium (SECC) and National Integrated Drought System (NIDIS) , D3-Extremeand D4-Exceptional Drought Conditions exist throughout the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (ACF) Basin.
The severity of the drought is being reported across the basin. The following facts are of particular concern, and are the basis for this Call for Action.
• Lowest observed historical readings are being recorded on Flint River and groundwater levels in areas of southwest Georgia.
• Historically high, prolonged salinity levels in Apalachicola Bay associated with loss of estuarine seafood habitat and significant oyster mortality are being reported by Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve.
• Shrimp harvests in Apalachicola Bay and eastern Gulf have diminished to levels that will not support commercial shrimping reported by commercial fisherman.
• Crab harvest is likewise below historical lows and cannot support commercial harvesting.
• Salt water species rarely seen in upper portions of Apalachicola Bay indicative of a prolonged depletion of normal freshwater flows necessary for a healthy estuarine habitat are being observed by commercial fisherman.
• Forecast by weather and climate experts at all levels is for continued Extreme Conditions to prevail for at least the next three months.
• On May 1st, the Corps of Engineers decided it will move its operation of Federal reservoirs in the ACF Basin into Exceptional Drought Operations mode essentially further reducing the minimum water flows allowed to the Apalachicola System.
• Despite these repeated Federal assessments of extreme drought conditions and forecast of continued drought, the States of Georgia and Florida have not yet called for additional available water conservation measures for water users in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (ACF) River basin.
Apalachicola Riverkeeper is calling for the following actions:
1. The Governors of Florida, Alabama, and Georgia meet in an emergency session to assess joint and unilateral actions available to mitigate the significant economic and ecological impact of this prolonged drought on the people and communities of their states.
2. Governor of Florida Scott to call for action that will prompt effective State action to assist and provide Florida seafood industry workers relief during the ensuing disaster.
3. NW Florida Water Management District to establish water conservation measures consistent with extreme drought in the Apalachicola Basin and to work with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to ascertain the Ecological Instream Flow Needs of the Apalachicola River, Floodplain, and Bay.
4. Georgia Governor Deal to encourage and impose significant water use restrictions on water users to conserve the water to help all water users survive the drought.
5. US Senator Bill Nelson (Florida) based on his demonstrated leadership on this issue, to continue to work with the Florida Delegation and State of Florida leadership for a fair allocation of water for the Apalachicola River, Floodplain and Bay that will ensure healthy wildlife populations and a productive commercial fishing and oyster industry.
6. That the 3 States and the Federal government seek opportunities to involve the Stakeholders that comprise the communities of the ACF Basin in effective action to mitigate the adverse impacts of this prolonged drought.
The Apalachicola Riverkeeper is a non-profit organization that monitors the Apalachicola River from the upper reaches at the Florida/Georgia line downstream 107 miles, through the middle reaches around Wewahitchka, to the estuary and Bay on the Gulf. Its mission is to provide stewardship and advocacy for the protection of the Apalachicola River and Bay, its tributaries and watersheds, in order to improve and maintain its environmental integrity and to preserve the natural, scenic, recreational, and commercial fishing character of these waterways. For more information, call: 850-653-8936 or visit us at www.apalachicolariverkeeper.org.
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