Adam Putnam: Fixing Apalachicola Bay is a Long-Term Project
Around the State
Fixing Apalachicola Bay, even if upstream water flows are allowed to increase, will require long-term solutions, said Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.
But he said it’s too early to discuss closing the bay until repairs can be made so oyster beds can once again flourish.
“Unfortunately, this is not a short-term crisis that is like the aftermath of a tropical storm where you can see a recovery within a fairly narrow window of time,” Putnam said after appearing before the Economic Club of Florida at the Leon County Civic Center on Wednesday.
“This is a long-term problem that will require significant resources.”
While officials have declined to put a pricetag on the work, the state has started an all-hands-on approach to the Panhandle community that historically has harvested the majority of Florida’s oyster yield but has faced an economic crisis with the decline in water quality.
Meanwhile, the state has organized farm-share trailers to help distribute food for families in Franklin County and is working with stakeholders to find a way to rebound oyster resources.
Florida has been working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for a long-term plan to address the needs of Franklin County.
Gov. Rick Scott has asked the U.S. Department of Commerce to declare oyster harvesting areas in the Gulf of Mexico around Apalachicola Bay a fishery resource disaster, in part because of years of drought conditions and overharvesting.
Putnam said the state continues to push for additional water releases into the bay. Restrictions on upstream water flow have reduced the amount of fresh water vital for the growth of oysters in the bay.
“We have data that demonstrates there have been worse droughts, but the flow has never been as bad as it is today,” Putnam said.
The state has estimated that Apalachicola Bay has produced about 10 percent of the U.S. oyster supply, and accounted for 90 percent of Florida’s harvest.
According to the release from the governor’s office, the Department of Economic Opportunity’s Mobile One-Stop Unit is coordinating a food drive with state agencies, while the DEO is working with the Department of Children and Families and other state partners in the Rural Economic Development Initiative to develop long-term strategies to assist the region.
The Department of Children and Families is training 15 volunteers to assist with the emergency needs of Franklin County residents, with a temporary employee hired to assist people at the Apalachicola location of Franklin’s Promise Coalition.
The governor’s office also added that “anyone interested in contributing canned or nonperishable foods for impacted residents in Franklin County can drop off their items at the DEO visitor entrance located at 107 East Madison St., Tallahassee. Please visit Franklin County’s Disaster Relief Fund at http://www.bayaidfranklin.com/.”
Reach Jim Turner at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (772) 215-9889.