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Nelson, Dunn Wade Into ‘Water War’ With Georgia

Andreas Swensson
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

With an adverse legal decision in the ongoing "water war" with Georgia, Florida congressional members on Wednesday began taking steps to reassert Florida's claim that regional water policies are hurting Apalachicola Bay.
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., said he has filed a bill to require the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to increase the freshwater flow from Georgia south into the Apalachicola River and Apalachicola Bay.

U.S. Rep. Neal Dunn, a Republican whose Northwest Florida district includes Apalachicola Bay, called on the Corps to suspend new plans to allow more water use in Georgia until the federal agency meets with Florida officials and others to discuss the impact of the court report.

Dunn also plans to file a resolution seeking to block Corps authority to write water-control rules that could hurt Florida.

The actions came after a U.S. Supreme Court special master on Tuesday released a report recommending the nation's highest court reject Florida's call for a cap on Georgia's water use. Florida filed a lawsuit against Georgia in 2013, alleging that Georgia diverts too much water from the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river basin.

Special Master Ralph Lancaster said he could not devise a settlement between Florida and Georgia without the Corps' participation because the federal agency controls water flow through the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint basin in a series of dams and reservoirs.

"The lack of freshwater flowing into Apalachicola Bay is having a devastating effect on the local oyster industry and local economy," Nelson said. "The oystermen whose livelihood depends on having enough freshwater in the bay are relying on us to get this fixed."

Nelson's bill would require the Corps to send "an adequate amount" of freshwater south to Apalachicola Bay. He filed a similar bill in 2013 but it did not pass.