Last week the Sun Bay Paper reported that a federal judge has ordered Georgia and Florida to resume mediation talks and try to privately solve the two states differences over Georgia’s use of water Florida claims should flow into Apalachicola Bay. Now, we’ve learned that Former Republican presidential candidate and State Senator, Marco Rubio is taking an active role in the ongoing “water woes” faced by the Sunshine State.
The Florida senator took to the Senate floor Thursday evening to decry the way water is managed in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (ACF) and Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa (ACT) river basins. Both Florida and Alabama claim that Georgia removes too much water for metro Atlanta at the expense of public water health for the two neighboring states. Florida has been particularly adamant about destruction of oyster beds in Apalachicola Bay in Florida; ongoing damage that has drastically reduced the oyster harvest impoverished many fishermen in the industry.
“The bottom line is that the status quo is only working for one state,” Rubio said in the Chamber.
Rubio, who is a republican senator, crossed party lines to team up with his colleague, Florida’s long-serving Bill Nelson, a Democrat, and two GOP senators from Alabama to push for a vote on an amendment to a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spending bill that’s currently being considered on the Senate floor. The bill would require the governors of Georgia, Florida and Alabama to agree on water allocations in the two basins before the Army Corps can formally do so. The provision would cut off funds for the Army Corps to carry out the reallocation until the states come up with a deal.
“Absent such an agreement between governors, water continues to be withheld and the situation has now become dire in my home state of Florida,” Rubio said.
This isn’t the first time Rubio has become involved in the water wars and it’s been an involvement with political consequences for the recent Presidential candidate. During his campaign, Rubio was unable to get the support and endorsement of Georgia Governor Nathan Deal who repeatedly spoke out against the first tem senator’s position on the water issues.
According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution (AJC) this week, Deal’s office would not comment on the latest round of fights on Capitol Hill. Deal did, however, in an effort to comply with the mediation required by the court, did meet with Florida’s Gov. Rick Scott and Alabama’s Gov. Robert Benchley to try and resolve the water battle in person. Meanwhile, the battle continues to be fought in the courts.
“Rubio’s speech came the same day another water wars-related provision appeared in the text of a document accompanying a second government spending bill written by Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby,” reported the AJC.
The provision “simply ensures transparency and disclosure of federal water storage contract violations in multi-state river basins,” said Torrie Matous, a Shelby spokeswoman.
“Any water authority in compliance with the terms of its storage contract should not be concerned about the disclosure of this information. For those that are violating their contracts, Senator Shelby believes that the American people have a right and need to know,” Matous said,
Georgia’s senators said they would relentlessly fight Shelby’s attempt at “introducing unneeded and confusing language” into the bill.
The drama may come to a head as early as next week but it is ultimately up to the discretion of Senate leaders to schedule a vote on the water wars amendment or not.
Meanwhile, Florida oystermen in Florida’s southern Apalachicola Bay continue to be forced out of a business that has occupied their families for generation. And all so metro Atlanta can spread its already suffocating shadow across the north of Georgia. Once again, Americans see the interconnected nature of our public resources and are left to wonder if the “water wars” will ever be resolved.