A special place

"If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, it is a special place where I spend my afternoon."

Monday, October 22, 2012

Updates - Monarchs and Oysters

The "daisy" weed

    Well, I was mistaken when I said the monarch butterflies were on their way out. Their population has more than doubled!  I've found myself swerving on the bridge, trying to avoid them.
    At the end of September, the monarchs had been here about a week. Then, it seemed as if they had moved on. That wasn't the case. In the next two weeks, thousands more monarchs had taken over the island.
Lantana is also a popular source of nectar
   As beautiful as they are, people are starting to see them as just something else that they have to clean off the windshield and pick out of the grill of the car. The novelty has definitely worn off. And it's true, from a distance, they're not much to look at. But by stopping and taking a closer look, you see things that you wouldn't have noticed with a quick glance. Like this peculiar looking one. It's not exactly your typical looking monarch. 
An albino monarch?
    Now that the temperatures are cooling, I think they're probably ready to move on. Only time will tell. Personally, I think they've made a beautiful showing of themselves while they've been here and they can stay as long as they like.

   The situation with the oysters isn't nearly as pretty as the butterflies.
    I have a friend that works for the local EPA (environmental protection agency), and she has shed some light on the high mortality rate of the oysters. It's not a subject that's been discussed a lot publicly simply because mistakes have been made and at the present time, there is no real plan of action in place to remedy the situation.  
   There seem to be two reasons for the lack of oysters in the bay. The first being the over harvesting that took place when the bp oil spill occurred in 2010.

   As I said before, in an earlier post, (Trouble in the Bay), there was no way of knowing what kind of impact the oil spill would have on the oysters. So to play it safe, the bay was stripped of all viable oysters. The idea was to save the oysters before the oil got here. This panic proved to be unwarranted and disastrous. The oil never got close enough to harm the oysters. Just like there was no way of predicting how close the oil would get, there was no way to predict the droughts that would effect Atlanta, Georgia in the coming years. The droughts effected the fresh water supply that comes from the Apalachicola River to feed the oysters. The combination of these two factors, over harvesting, and not getting enough fresh water, created a situation that the oysters haven't been able to overcome.
The boats aren't this full these days
    Atlanta depends on Lake Lanier for it's water supply. The lake was created in the 1950's by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers by building Buford Dam in the Apalachicola, Chattahoochee, and Flint river basin. In 1988, when the corps wanted to divert 20% of the water that was approved for hydropower, flood control and navigation, to Atlanta's drinking water supply, the Tri State Water War began.
    Alabama and Florida argued that it would be environmentally harmful to allocate so much water from the reservoir for Atlanta's drinking supply. The argument has proved to be valid. The oysters are not receiving enough fresh water from the river to survive. And using the water for Atlanta's daily drinking supply has never approved by Congress. 
    A U.S. district judge ordered that Georgia and the corps resolve this issue by July 12th of this year. And if an agreement could not be reached between the three states by then, Atlanta's water withdrawals would revert back to what they were receiving in the 1970's. There are 3 million people now that depend on Lake Lanier for their water. They were facing an impending disaster. But, in June, 2011  the 11th Circuit District Court overturned the ruling.  So now Florida and Alabama are hoping the supreme court will hear their appeal.
   Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama issued a strong statement saying "For too long, the corps ignored the law and the needs of those downstream to protect unrestricted, unauthorized, and unplanned growth in Atlanta. Alabama and Florida can't be expected to bear the brunt of Georgia's poor lack of planning for Atlanta's expanding drinking water use". Atlanta has been illegally siphoning water from the reservoir for decades and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is responsible.
  Here's a little irony to the story. Atlanta refused to fund the dam when the corps built it stating that at that time, they didn't foresee a need for the water the lake provided. Therefore the lake was federally funded. And now Atlanta has grown to be the largest city in the U.S. that is not near a major body of water.
One to rake, one to tong, one to cull
    So now, in order to try to protect  the oyster beds, many parts of Apalachicola Bay are closed for harvesting. Out of desperation, men have resorted to poaching in illegal areas at night causing  many citations to be issued. Since the amount of money that is made depends on the amount of bags that are filled, and the money is split between the men on the boat, most boats now only have one man per boat instead of three.   
   One solution that's been discussed is closing the cut between the main island and Cape St. George to cut down on the salt water coming into the bay from the gulf. This would help to keep the balance that is necessary for the oysters to grow. This would be a huge project so I'm sure they're exploring all the options.
    We can only hope that this issue will be resolved soon. If history is any indication, this is not likely. It appears we're in for a long battle.
* The Army Corp visited the bay today (10/22) to inspect first hand the damage that's been done by restricting  the fresh water supply. In 30 minutes time, they only harvested a hand full of live oysters.


  1. This is very sad. Thanks for documenting though and posting updates.

  2. Very sad. Thanks for documenting though and posting updates.