Quantifying the federal requirement: water for fish and wildlife in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin
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I explore the idea of a federal requirement for flow in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (ACF) River Basin to protect fish and wildlife. This idea is complicated by the fact that both water and wildlife are public trust resources of the states, not the federal government. However, the federal government exercises considerable control of water in the ACF through the operations of several large reservoirs. Also, several ACF aquatic species are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA). Until its termination in 2003, negotiations for an allocation formula under the ACF Compact provided briefly a forum for considering a federal flow requirement for fish and wildlife. I discuss in general terms what is known and not known about the flow needs of the ESA-listed aquatic species in the ACF. The overarching need in the basin is for a flow prescription that both federal and state water managers and regulators would apply adaptively to decisions affecting the water resource. The prescription should represent an informed societal choice about the desired balance between human uses of the basin’s waters and the ecological integrity of those waters.