Water Wars: U.S. Supreme Court Hears Florida vs. Georgia case concerning the Apalachicola River

Apalachicola River
Apalachicola River(Hannah Messier)
Published: Feb. 22, 2021 at 4:14 PM CST
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - The Apalachicola River and the rivers that flow into it, the Flint and Chattahoochee, were the center of attention U.S. Supreme Court on Monday.

Justices heard a case between Florida and Georgia. Florida claimed the Peach State is using too much water. The flow from the rivers are a major factor in the health of Apalachicola Bay and its dwindling oyster population, according to Georgia Ackerman, the head of Apalachicola Riverkeeper.

Florida claimed Atlanta’s overuse of water upstream is hurting the Apalachicola basin downstream. The Apalachicola River is key to the health of oysters on the Forgotten Coast.

Jack Rudloe, the founder of the Gulf Specimen Marine Lab in Panacea, has watched as the lack of freshwater impact the oyster industry.

“High salinity coming in, and you have predators that come in that living in high salinity. Boron, eat the oysters up.” Rudloe explained.

Once thriving fishing towns are now paying the price beyond the seafood business.

“Fear and the insecurity have caused major social problems, divorce, domestic violence, crime, drugs,” commercial fisherman John Devoss described.

The State of Georgia said Florida doesn’t have proof that Atlanta’s water use is causing the bay’s problems, pointing to what it calls Florida’s “poor management” in the Apalachicola Bay, including overharvesting.

Ackerman hopes the state can finally find common ground after years of court fights.

“What we do know is that the water can be shared, and we’re hoping that an equitable water-sharing plan will be developed by the state,” she said.

She says if the dispute isn’t resolved, the oysters aren’t the only resource in jeopardy.

“We’ve seen other species in decline, and so there’s a general concern about the overall health of Apalachicola Bay as it relates to the Apalachicola River,” Ackerman said.

As the bay withers, so too do its coastal communities.

“They didn’t take account of what it meant to the people. They sacrificed the people down here, for the people up there.” Devoss described.

It could be months before the Supreme Court issues its decision.

Apalachicola Riverkeeper says the case could impact how water is shared throughout the United States.

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