House passes Apalachicola Bay $25M plan, Brevard island critical designation
Much to the dismay of oyster lovers, Florida wildlife officials closed Apalachicola Bay.

The bay once provided around 90% of Florida’s oysters.

Apalachicola could expect to see $5 million over five years under a proposal the House passed this week, while the same protections afforded to Apalachicola Bay would be extended to the Brevard County barrier island area under another successful bill.

The Apalachicola Bay area has held the critical state concern (ACSC) label for nearly 40 years. HB 407 would provide for the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to spend up to $5 million a year for five years.

There were no questions or debate on the bill on the House floor.

The bay once provided around 90% of Florida’s oysters and 10% nationwide, but those numbers began declining in 2013. By 2020, the oyster population collapsed. A five-year suspension on wild oyster harvesting went into effect the same year.

If signed, the bill allows DEP to enter into “financial assistance agreements with the City of Apalachicola to implement projects that improve surface water and groundwater quality within the Apalachicola Bay ACSC, including the construction of stormwater management facilities and central sewage collection facilities, installation of onsite sewage treatment and disposal systems, direct and indirect potable reuse, and other water quality and water supply projects,” according to a House staff analysis.

Governments and agencies in the Apalachicola Bay Area are presently required to coordinate plans and pursue programs and regulations abiding by a thorough set of principles.

Those include, “Water quality to be protected, maintained, and improved for public water supply, propagation of aquatic life, and recreational and other uses,” along with, “No wastes to be discharged into any waters of the Apalachicola Bay Area without first being given the degree of treatment necessary to protect water uses.”

Also passing the House, HB 1489 would grant critical state concern status to the Brevard barrier island area.

“The designation would provide heightened protection for one of the most fragile ecosystems in our coastal region here in the state of Florida,” Indialantic Republican Rep. Thad Altman said.

The area would begin at the southern boundary of Melbourne Beach and extend south to the Sebastian Inlet State Park. It used to be one of the largest sea trout fishing areas in the world, but that population has since declined by 90%.

An amendment filed on the floor by Altman and agreed to by the House allows the designation to be recommended for removal “once all local land regulations and local comprehensive plans are adequate to protect this area of the barrier island,” he said.

The area contains development, but is constrained to lower-density and height standards set in the 1980s. The designation would have no effect on existing zoning or land use before the law goes into effect.

Wes Wolfe

Wes Wolfe is a reporter who's worked for newspapers across the South, winning press association awards for his work in Georgia and the Carolinas. He lives in Jacksonville and previously covered state politics, environmental issues and courts for the News-Leader in Fernandina Beach. You can reach Wes at [email protected] and @WesWolfeFP. Facebook:


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