Legislature signs off on up to $25M for Apalachicola Bay water quality
The Florida-Georgia water war is heating up, with Apalachicola Bay’s oyster fields on the line.

Apalachicola Bay
By 2020, the oyster population collapsed.

Up to $25 million could be on the way for Apalachicola as the Legislature passed a bill to enhance water quality in the area.

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.

“Apalachicola Bay is one of the most productive estuaries in the Northern Hemisphere, and is of major economic and ecological importance to the eastern Gulf of Mexico,” Tallahassee Republican Sen. Corey Simon said as the Senate substituted the House bill for SB 702.

“The economic value associated with sustaining the environmental health of the Apalachicola Bay system is significant. Not just locally, but to the state, with commercial and recreational fishing, tourism and boating, with each generating millions of dollars and thousands of jobs per year.”

There were no questions or debate on the bill on the Senate floor, as there were none on the House floor when it passed that chamber.

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.

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.”

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: facebook.com/wes.wolfe


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