Top Ten: oysters

Gov. Rick Scott, and Senators Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio samples oysters at Riverfront Park. Photo available for purchase

Gov. Rick Scott, and Senators Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio samples oysters at Riverfront Park.

Published: Monday, December 30, 2013 at 02:31 PM.

It was a year of some huge re-thinking for Apalachicola Bay, a time when the state’s leading politicians decided time was running short for saving a struggling industry.

In August, a crew of Florida’s most powerful leaders gathered at the water’s edge in Apalachicola and brought out the heavy artillery in the state’s long simmering water wars with Georgia and Alabama.

The unusual visit by Governor Rick Scott, and both U.S. Senators Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio came less than a day after the state received the go-ahead on the request for a commercial fishery failure it first sought nearly a year ago. U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker declared a failure for the oyster fishery along the entire west coast of Florida, which is primarily centered in Apalachicola Bay.

Nelson, a Democrat, and Rubio, the Republican junior senator, sat side by side before a packed audience in the courthouse annex as they conducted a rare Senate subcommittee field hearing on the adverse effects that diminished river flows have had on the oyster industry in Apalachicola Bay.

The buzz that followed the two-hour hearing - in which both the Army Corps of Engineers’ water management policies and the ever-increasing water consumption by users upriver drew a hefty share of harsh criticism - was still in the air at lunchtime when Scott announced plans to file suit in the U.S. Supreme Court to halt Georgia’s “unchecked and growing consumption of water.”

Apalachicola, which first went to court over the matter several years ago, would later sign on with the state’s legal team.

In assuming the lead role at the hearing, part of a subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, Nelson blasted the Corps’ persistence stance that it can only consider congressionally authorized purposes, such as flood control, navigation, energy and environmental impact, when it allocates water.

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