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The Apalachicola River is located in North Florida, and is the lowest part of the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River System that runs through Florida, Alabama and Georgia. It flows for 106 miles, from Jim Woodruff Lock and Dam at Lake Seminole to the Gulf of Mexico at Apalachicola Bay. The river serves as the dividing line between two primary regions of Florida: the Panhandle in the Central time zone, and the Big Bend in the Eastern time zone.

Supporting the highest diversity of freshwater fish species in the state, the Apalachicola River and its basin hold the second highest concentration of amphibian and reptile species in North America. Pine forests along the banks are home to the world's largest population of red-cockaded woodpeckers, and the river's floodplain woodlands and barrier islands in the bay provide a stopover point for hundreds of Neotropical migrant birds and wintering waterfowl. Oyster beds, striped bass, grouper, drum, flounder, shrimp and blue crab populations that depend on the river and bay support a multi-million dollar commercial seafood industry.

On May 9, 2001, Carl Hiaasen of the Miami Herald wrote that "the ongoing rape of the Apalachicola River is one of those quiet little atrocities that most Americans never hear about, even though they're bankrolling it." Federal taxpayers spend nearly US$20 million each year to maintain the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River System for navigation, but the system is barely used. The Congressional Budget Office has calculated that Apalachicola navigation costs more than 50 times the national average for navigation channels. Furthermore, riverbank disposal of dredge material is destroying some of the region's most productive wetlands and shellfish habitat. Consequently, many environmentalists and wildlife agencies are seeking to have dredging of the Apalachicola River stopped in order to preserve the population of the floodplain and the delicate balance of marine life in Apalachicola Bay.

Quick facts from the US Geological Survey

  • The discharge of the Apalachicola River is 21st in magnitude among the rivers of the conterminous United States, and is the largest in Florida, accounting for 35 percent of freshwater flow on the western coast of Florida.
  • Eighty percent of the Apalachicola River flow is contributed by the Chattahoochee and Flint Rivers, 11 percent from the Chipola River, and less than 10 percent from ground water and overland flow.
  • The Apalachicola River drains about 2,600 square miles of land, and its shallow estuary covers about 208 square miles.
  • The river falls 40 feet as it flows through the Gulf Coast lowlands.
  • Tidal influences do not extend beyond 25 miles upstream from the river's mouth.
  • The width of the river ranges from several hundred feet when confined to its banks to nearly 4½ miles during high flows.

Source information: ga.water.usgs.gov • www.taxpayer.net • www.tncflorida.org
Carl Hiaasen's article can be found at http://www.miami.com/herald/content/opinion/columnists/hiaasen/digdocs/047138.htm

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