Georgia’s Victory in the Water War with Florida

It’s not exactly a “sweetheart deal,” but the Great State of Georgia seems to have won a victory in the water war with Florida, according to a news release from Governor Nathan Deal and Attorney General Chris Carr dated on Valentine’s Day 2017.

Hearings were held in Maine before Special Master Ralph Lancaster, Junior, in response to Florida’s law suit charging that Georgia was taking too much water from the ACF Basin, comprised of the Apalachicola, Chattahoochee and Flint Rivers.A recommendation will be made by Special Master Ralph Lancaster, Jr., to the U.S. Supreme Court to deny Florida’s request for a new apportionment of the waters of the ACF Basin.

“We are incredibly pleased with the special master’s recommendation to the Supreme Court of the U.S.” said Deal. “Georgia remains committed to the conservation efforts that make us amicable stewards of our water. We are encouraged by this outcome which puts us closer to finding a resolution to a decades-long dispute over the use and management of the waters of the basin.”

“The special master’s decision is a major step toward securing a victory for Georgia citizens,” said Carr. “The State of Georgia put forth a remarkable and unified effort in this case, and bringing closure to this long-running dispute will ensure that our state has adequate resources to grow and flourish, ensuring economic prosperity for years to come.”

Our friends with the Lake Lanier Association posted this vital excerpt Special Master Ralph Lancaster, Jr. regarding the case:

In issuing the Order on Georgia’s motion to dismiss, I observed that “Florida’s claim will live or die based on whether Florida can show that a consumption cap is justified and will afford adequate relief.”  (Order on Georgia’s Motion to Dismiss, at 13 (Dkt. No. 128) (citing Idaho, 444 U.S. at 392)). Florida has failed to show that a consumption cap will afford adequate relief. The testimony and evidence submitted at trial demonstrates that the Corps can likely offset increased streamflow in the Flint River by storing additional water in its reservoirs along the Chattahoochee River during dry periods. The evidence also shows that the Corps retains extensive discretion in the operation of those federal reservoirs. As a result, the Corps can release (or not release) water largely as it sees fit, subject to certain minimum requirements under the RIOP. There is no guarantee that the Corps will exercise its discretion to release or hold back water at any particular time. Further, Florida has not shown that it would benefit from increased pass-through operations under normal conditions. Finally, without the Corps as a party, the Court cannot order the Corps to take any particular action. Accordingly, Florida has not proven by clear and convincing evidence that any additional streamflow in the Flint River resulting from a decree imposing a consumptive cap on Georgia’s water use would be released from Jim Woodruff Dam into the River at a time that would provide a material benefit to Florida.
Because Florida has not met its burden, I recommend that the Court deny Florida’s request for relief.

We are thankful for this prudent gift to the citizens of Georgia and Florida by the courts.  Perhaps now we can stop wasting money on incessant litigation and return to being good neighbors.


About Author

Robert J. Sutherland is a travel writer enjoying life in Gainesville, GA.
Robert has two adult daughters, seven practically perfect grandchildren and a zippy Kawasaki. Contact Robert at [email protected].

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