An Interstate Management Strategy for the Suwannee River Basin
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Mere geographic proximity or the sharing of a common water resource has not overcome the many economic and political differences that can exist between states. However, the voluntary resource management program being used by Florida and Georgia agencies in the Suwannee Basin is an important step toward coordinated, rather than ad hoc, cooperation. The Suwannee Basin Interagency Alliance (SBIA) is an organization of state, federal, and local agencies working to promote interstate watershed management within the 10,000 square mile Suwannee River Basin. The basin is shared by Georgia (57 percent) and Florida (43 percent). Originating in the Okefenokee Swamp, the Suwannee River flows 235 miles to the Gulf of Mexico. Major tributaries are the Withlacoochee, Alapaha, and Santa Fe Rivers (Figure 1). Figure 1. Broad River watershed area. Organizational Background of the SBIA In 1992, Georgia adopted a river basin management planning approach to watershed protection as defined in State law (O.C.G.A. 12-5-520) passed by the Georgia General Assembly. The law provided for a plan to be developed for each major river basin of the state, including the Suwannee River Basin. The Georgia Dept. of Natural Resources, Environmental Protec-tion Division (GAEPD), is charged with development of the plans. In Florida, five regional water management districts, with boundaries based on river basins, were created with the passage of the Water Resources Act in 1972 (Chapter 373, Florida Statutes). The Suwannee River Water Management District (SRWMD) is one of these five Florida water management districts. In 1991 the SRWMD adopted the Suwannee River Surface Water Improvement and Management (SWIlvI) Plan as directed by the Florida legislature. In 1994 the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) named the Suwannee as one of six ecosystem "pilot " areas in Florida and, in cooperation with the SRWMD, produced a Suwannee River Ecosystem Management Plan. These laws and programs, all of which promote an integrated, holistic watershed protection approach to water management, led to the formation of the SBIA, which held its first formal meeting on September 20, 1995, in Cordele, Georgia.