Alabama, Florida lawmakers urge Congress to act on ailing Apalachicola river basin

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U.S. Sens. Jeff Sessions and Richard Shelby joined with Florida counterparts Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson urged a Senate budget panel to take on what they called “ongoing mismanagement” of the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (ACF) and Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa (ACT) River Basins on the part of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Wednesday.

The senators asked the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development to include language related to the ACF in the Fiscal Year 2016-2017 budget in a letter addressed to the committee. The document already includes language regarding the ACT.

“In light of the Corps’ September 30, 2015, release of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement” related to the basement, the senators wrote, “Congressional action is needed given the current proposal would continue to severely restrict water flows for downstream users.

“The ACF’s water supply is the lifeblood for many Alabama and Florida communities, and supports multiple industrial and domestic uses. For example, both Florida and Alabama rely on the ACF for navigation and the production of hydroelectric power that supplies efficient, low-cost energy for many throughout the region. In addition, Alabama and Florida depend on the ACF for irrigation and agricultural purposes, flood control, and water quality. Without a reliable and consistent freshwater flow from the ACF, entire communities and their respective economies are left to the decisions and priorities of those upstream,” they wrote.

They lawmakers said the river accounts for $200 million in economic impact annually on the region, and directly employs some 85 percent of the local workforce there. Recent ecological and water management mishaps have caused severe damage to basin, and to the surrounding economy.

“Because of each state’s vital need to ensure that the ACT and ACF River Basins are properly managed with each of their interests appropriately considered, we urge the Subcommittee to include language in any omnibus appropriations vehicle that ensures that management of both of these critical basins are not left to the whims of an unaccountable federal bureaucracy, but instead is properly determined and agreed upon by each state’s governor,” the bipartisan group of senators concluded.

See the full text of the letter here, courtesy of Rubio’s congressional office.

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