The other night we ate a dozen oysters. They were so good, fresh and salty, that we ordered another dozen. Apalachicola oysters, smoked mullet, redfish, swatting no-see-ums and watching herons roost as the sun set over saltmarshes – this is our coastal heritage.
Which is why it was hard to hear our lawyers report that Florida failed to get the Supreme Court of the United States to order Georgia to let more water reach the Apalachicola River. When Audubon filed a friend of the court brief in the case, I was certain that our bird and fish science would inform the Special Master of the unfolding crisis in the Apalachicola Bay. The Special Master recommended against the State of Florida.
Other watersheds are affected by this bad decision. The Suwannee River runs low most years, and most of the other rivers that flow from Georgia and Alabama to Florida’s Gulf are stressed as well. The case also matters because in North Florida springs are flowing well below historic levels – too much groundwater is being pumped out. The Suwannee watershed, which includes part of Georgia, is short 130 million gallons per day. Two-thirds of the excess water withdrawals take place outside the watershed.
It seems easy to blame our water problems on Georgia’s bad habits except while Florida fights our neighbor, we are depleting our own water resources. Water managers rarely reject permits, and decision-makers in Tallahassee have cut both water agency budgets and science that could help predict and prevent our pending water resource crisis. Worse, the Florida Legislature rolled back water regulations under the terribly false pretense that environmental protections cost jobs.
From the Everglades to the St. Johns River, Florida is allowing water to be pumped and drained from natural systems – and in the process granting irreversible rights to take water from natural systems.
In a recent speech, I put it this way, “No water, no fish…no fish, no herons.” To paraphrase that, no water, no oysters, no oysters, no American Oystercatchers. You get my point.
Help Audubon deploy the science and advocacy needed to protect our water resources. Go to GiveToAudubonFlorida.org.