In advance of a Senate field hearing set for Tuesday, the Apalachicola Riverkeeper is organizing a media event to draw attention to the collapse of the Apalachicola Bay.
On Aug. 13, at the request of Florida Senator Marco Rubio, an unprecedented field hearing will take place in Apalachicola, beginning at 11 a.m. in the courthouse annex.
The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation will come to discuss, “Effects of Water Flows on Apalachicola Bay: Short and Long Term Perspectives.”
At Tuesday’s meeting, Riverkeeper Dan Tonsmeire asked the county commission to declare August 13 “Stand Up for the River and Bay Day.” Anita Grove, director of the Apalachicola Bay Chamber of Commerce, was able to secure a similar declaration from the Apalachicola city commission Tuesday evening.
Tonsmeire said he wants to assemble a large group of people as a show of support for bay restoration on the day of the hearing.
“I want your endorsement, participation and guidance,” he told commissioners. “This is an unprecedented opportunity that the Senate has given us. The opportunity for comment during the Senate hearing is pretty limited so we want to stage an orderly 30-minute press conference on the courthouse steps prior to the hearing to provide an opportunity for you and other community leaders to speak.”
Tonsmeire said he does not think the states will reach an agreement on the divvying up of precious water resources. “We need Congress to take action,” he said.
At a brainstorming meeting on Monday, Tonsmeire said he would like to see all downtown businesses close on Tuesday morning so workers can attend the rally at the courthouse.
At the county meeting, Alan Pierce, director of administrative services, said, “We want to draw a big crowd to show how important this issue is.”
Chairman Cheryl Sanders added a personal note, saying that “Marco Rubio is like a baby brother to me and a friend to Franklin County. He and my brother served in the Florida House of Representatives together. He needs to understand the magnitude of this problem and understand that this is our life’s blood.”
Pierce said Florida Senator Bill Nelson will be in attendance, as will Congressman Steve Southerland. The hearing is set to conclude no later than 1 p.m. The first part of the hearing is structured with three panels of invited guests giving prepared testimony to the subcommittee, Pierce said.
“After the panels are through, there might be an opportunity for very limited public testimony but it will depend on how long the panels take,” he said.
Tonsmiere said the media event would not overlap with the Senate hearing.
Commissioners asked Parks and Recreation Director Nikki Millender and Emergency Management Coordinator Pam Brownell to take charge of the logistics of the prehearing press event. Tonsmeire said the sheriff’s office has promised to do whatever is needed to make the meeting run smoothly.
Arrangements are being made for tents to shelter attendees at the rally. Millender will have the meeting on the courthouse steps and the Senate hearing streamed to a big screen television in the Coombs Armory.
Those wishing to speak out or simply to support the fight to save Apalachicola Bay are urged to come to the courthouse steps at 10 a.m. on Tuesday.
For more information, please call the Riverkeeper at 653-8936.