|Call to Action, Bryan Desloge|
As you may have read in numerous press accounts recently, the future of the Apalachicola River and Bay is in jeopardy. The livelihoods of many in our community are at stake. For too long, the River's flow level has been threatened by extreme drought conditions and over allocation of water upstream - significantly impacting not only the River, Floodplain and Bay, but the community as well. It's clear that the health of the Apalachicola River is inextricably linked to the local economy! In early October, Leon County Commissioner and Apalachicola Riverkeeper member, Bryan Desloge, delivered a Call to Action to help those who depend on this fragile estuary and are struggling to make ends meet. Bryan also paddled with Rivertrek 2012 volunteers.
Bottom (left to right): Alex Reed Georgia Ackerman, Doug Alderson, Bryan Desloge
Top: Rick Zelznak, Rob Diaz, Micheal Taber, Josh Bolick, Jennifer Portman, Chris Robertson, Mike Mendez.
Bryan Desloge, My Opinion, Tallahassee Democrat (10/1/12)
Ask me where I want to go for lunch on any given day and the answer will invariably be Shell Oyster Bar. Hand me a menu somewhere else, and without fail, my choice will be oysters. Fried, raw, grilled, Rockefeller, however they're made, I want them.
Maybe it's because I was born and raised here in Tallahassee, just a few hours' drive from Franklin County's beautiful Apalachicola River. Maybe it's because I just have really good taste in food! Either way, my affection for oysters is nothing compared with the struggle the oystermen, their industry and their families are facing right now. Imagine if your industry, your livelihood, the one thing that supports your family, disappeared. We all think that would never happen to us, but that's exactly what's happening to the oystermen who call Franklin County and the Apalachicola Bay area their home.
Whether it's because of recent drought conditions in southwest Georgia, or unreasonable water restrictions from Lake Lanier, the bottom line is that fewer oysters are being harvested from the Apalachicola Bay. Multigenerational oystermen no longer are able to provide us with the seafood we love, and more important are unable to provide basic necessities for their own families.All of Franklin County depends on the oyster industry to survive. It is an industry with a multimillion-dollar local economic impact. The Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin, the most biologically diverse river grouping in North America, is the source of 10 percent of the nation's oyster harvest and 90 percent of Florida's harvest. So what's gone wrong? It's a combination of things.
To read about people on Lake Lanier watering their lawns or spending the day in a water park is unconscionable when you hear that others a few miles south of us have to tell their children to drink glasses of water to fill their bellies because there just isn't enough food on the table.
The Apalachicola River is running dry. The river carries water more than 300 miles from Georgia's Lake Lanier into the bay, providing the delicate balance of freshwater and saltwater that oysters need to thrive.
Two organizations are working hard right now to help the Franklin County community and build awareness of this situation:
Some people are pointing fingers at the BP oil spill, saying that recent storms have stirred up remnants of the oil. Others say that it's a combination of environmental issues that no one has the power to control, the drought or the misuse of water by those living along Lake Lanier and in Atlanta.
The second organization is the Rural and Economic Development Initiative (REDI), which is hosting a food drive for Franklin County. There will be collection boxes through Thursday at the Florida Association of Counties office (southwest corner of Park Avenue and Monroe Street) and in the main atrium of the Leon County Courthouse, at the state offices on the first floors of the Carr, Douglas, Bob Martinez, Collins and Gunter buildings, and at the Beaches and Coastal Systems office (Capital Circle Northwest). Any nonperishable food items such as canned goods, pasta/rice packages, peanut butter and toiletries such as shampoo, soaps, toothpaste and diapers are needed.
One is the Apalachicola Riverkeeper, a nonprofit organization that monitors the Apalachicola River, from the upper reaches at the Florida-Georgia line downstream 107 miles to the Gulf of Mexico. On Oct. 10, I will head off on a kayak camping trip sponsored by the Riverkeeper with 11 other paddlers, beginning in Chattahoochee and ending in Apalachicola, 107 miles and five days later. This RiverTrek 2012 will help raise awareness and money to help preserve the Apalachicola River.
There is no easy answer, but there are things each of us can do, and I challenge you to find them and do your part to help restore the oyster industry to Franklin County. See you at Shells.