A guest column on oil drilling by Riverkeeper Georgia Ackerman

The Apalachicola city commission on Nov. 19 unanimously passed a resolution opposing oil drilling activities in the Apalachicola River Basin. Currently, six exploratory oil drilling permits are under review by the Oil and Gas Program at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

Cholla Petroleum of Dallas, Texas seeks to drill six exploratory oil wells between the Dead Lakes, Chipola River and the Apalachicola River. Final permits have not yet been issued. Cholla previously conducted seismic testing activities between Blountstown and Wewahitchka.

Apalachicola Riverkeeper filed formal comments of opposition to the proposed exploratory oil drilling by Cholla, citing the significant ecological and economic risks oil drilling and potential commercial oil extraction would bring to the region, including downstream communities. Apalachicola Riverkeeper will continue to provide website updates on the drilling, including information on who to contact with concerns and questions.

The risk of damage to water quality, biologic and geologic integrity of the ecosystem from oil drilling far exceeds any benefits that a small number of property owners and an oil company will gain. The proposed exploratory oil wells are not in the public interest, especially those of us that use and care for the Apalachicola River and Bay.

The Apalachicola River basin includes the counties Franklin, Calhoun, Gadsden, Liberty, Jackson, and part of Gulf. With headwaters in the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Apalachicola River flows from Lake Seminole at the confluence of Chattahoochee and Flint Rivers through Florida’s largest forested floodplain. It is also Florida’s largest river in volume of flow, supporting the health of the Apalachicola Bay and the eastern Gulf of Mexico.

The Chipola River is a significant tributary of the Apalachicola River. Both rivers are designated Outstanding Florida Waters by the state, providing additional protection under Florida law. The Apalachicola River region is widely recognized for the diversity of plant and animal species, some found nowhere else in the world. It is also home to a National Estuarine Research Reserve.

Apalachicola Riverkeeper and others have worked steadfastly to help restore a healthy flow of water to the Apalachicola River and Bay. Water supply and water quality must be protected. The threats by oil and gas exploration to the region’s ecology and economy are substantial. As such, the Florida DEP should deny Cholla Petroleum’s permit applications.

Learn more at apalachicolariverkeeper.org

Georgia Ackerman is Riverkeeper and executive director at Apalachicola. Founded in 1998, Apalachicola Riverkeeper, part of the international Waterkeeper Alliance and Waterkeepers Florida, is dedicated to the protection and restoration of the Apalachicola River and Bay.