Governor Scott Asks Feds to Help Franklin County's Oyster Industry

TALLAHASSEE – The struggling oyster industry in Apalachicola could be getting some help from the federal government.

Three weeks after filing a lawsuit against Georgia in the U.S. Supreme Court, Governor Rick Scott has requested an Economic Injury Declaration for Franklin County as a result of impacts to the region’s commercial oyster fishery.

Fish and Wildlife Conservation Officials say fresh water from Lake Lanier and the Chattahoochee River in Atlanta isn't making it downstream to the Apalachicola River. That means higher salt levels in Apalachicola Bay and less oysters.

“I appreciate Governor Scott’s tireless efforts to strengthen Franklin County’s economy, specifically its once-thriving oyster industry,” said Congressman Steve Southerland. “An Economic Injury Declaration through the (U.S. Small Business Administration) would be a critical step forward for local small businesses that are struggling to survive.”

October 23, 2013

Mr. Timothy R. F. Skaggs,
Director, Field Operations Center-East
United States Small Business Administration
101 Marietta Street, NW, Suite 700
Atlanta, Georgia 30303

RE: Request for SBA Economic Injury Declaration – Franklin County, Florida

Dear Mr. Skaggs:

I am writing to request that the Small Business Administration (SBA) issue an Economic Injury Declaration for Franklin County, Florida. The economy of Franklin County, Florida is suffering a significant injury due to a failure of its commercial oyster fishery. The associated economic injury meets the threshold for an SBA declaration, as set forth in the attached supporting documentation.

The economy of Apalachicola and Franklin County is tied inextricably to the commercial seafood industry, which is heavily dependent on a healthy natural ecosystem. In the summer of 2012, the State of Florida experienced an unprecedented decline in the supply of oysters within Apalachicola Bay, resulting from a lack of necessary freshwater inflows to support productive oyster communities. The collapse of the oyster fishery caused a significant loss of income to commercial oyster fishermen, oyster processors, and rural coastal communities. As a result, many businesses in Franklin County have experienced economic injury.

I have enclosed materials supporting the Economic Injury Declaration attached as exhibits. They include a certification of the economically injured business by county, a report of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission supporting the oyster fishery disaster submittal, and a letter from the U.S. Secretary of Commerce determining that a fishery resource disaster occurred for the oyster stocks primarily in the Apalachicola Bay area during the 2012-2013 harvesting season.

Based on this information and in accordance with Title 13 C.F.R. Part 123.3(5), I certify that at least five small businesses in the disaster area have suffered substantial economic injury as a result of the disaster and are in need of financial assistance not otherwise available on reasonable terms. Accordingly, I request that the Small Business Administration make an Economic Injury Disaster Declaration for Franklin County and offer low-interest SBA disaster loans to the affected businesses.

Thank you for your consideration in this matter. If additional information is required to assist you in your determination, please contact Joseph Borras, Bureau of Recovery, Florida Division of Emergency Management, at (850) 487-3987.


Rick Scott

cc: Bryan W. Koon, Director

Enclosure: Governor’s Certification