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Byline: Kevin Spear
Johnny Richards works a long-handled oyster rake like a natural extension of his arms.
With it, he probes the dark water of Apalachicola Bay, listening for the tinny music that comes when the tool's steel fingers crunch into and claw up porcelain-hard shells. These days Richards doesn't like what he hears.
Oystermen such as Richards know they can wait out hurricanes and pollution that briefly damage oyster beds, the heart of a $200 million-a-year regional industry. But there may be no outlasting what's now being blamed for destroying Florida's famed seafood delicacy: the city of Atlanta and its thirst for water that would otherwise nourish the Panhandle's Apalachicola Bay.
"We have so many that are dying like this," said Richards, sorting through handfuls of oysters stunted by increasingly salty bay waters, "due to the lack of fresh water."
For nearly two decades, Florida, Georgia and Alabama have bickered over how to share an increasingly precious natural resource. All three states dip into water flowing from the Blue Ridge Mountains down the Chattahoochee …