Drought, Rivers Down, Over Fishing: Big Trouble in Florida

It’s hard getting our empathy worked up for people who are heavily involved in causing their own troubles, or at least not minding the signs and signals that troubles are coming and continuing as though it will be just another year.  Nevertheless, the conditions described by Lizette Alvarez in Sunday’s New York Times in Florida’s northwest Apalachicola Bay make us pay attention.

Oyster Seeding Oyster Seeding

In a budding ecological crisis, the oyster population has drastically declined in Apalachicola Bay, one of the country’s major estuaries and the cradle of Florida’s prized oyster industry.

The fishery’s collapse, which began last summer and has stretched into this year, is the most blatant sign yet of the bay’s vulnerability in the face of decades of dwindling flow from two rivers originating in Georgia. For 23 years now, Georgia, Alabama and Florida have waged a classic upstream-downstream water war, with Alabama and Florida coming out on the losing end of a long court battle in 2011.

Oyster overharvesting in the bay after the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, which largely missed this area, worsened the situation, as did persistent drought.

Though the fight over river water between three states is described as the leading cause that of course has the cart before the horse, or horses — of drought, extravagant water use (lawns and golf courses!), poor planning, over population and anti-scientism.

And of course, those who cry loudest about big government have got few other ideas but to ask big government for help when they, themselves, need it.  So different than when the unworthy and sinfully lazy poor ask.

Economically, the situation has become so desperate that Gov. Rick Scott, a conservative Republican who is not inclined to ask for federal help, wrote to the United States Commerce Department last year and asked it to declare the oyster harvesting areas a fishing disaster.