U.S. Supremes refuse to hear water wars appeals

Atlanta Business Chronicle by Dave Williams, Staff Writer

Date: Monday, June 25, 2012, 10:40am EDT – Last Modified: Monday, June 25, 2012, 11:07am EDT
Lake Lanier

Lake Lanier

Staff Writer- Atlanta Business Chronicle

The U.S. Supreme Court Monday refused to hear appeals by Florida and Alabama in their 20-year-old water war with Georgia.
Without comment, the justices declined to review an appeals court decision denying the two states’ claim that water supply was not an authorized purpose for Lake Lanier when the federally managed reservoir was built in the 1950s.
By rejecting the appeal, the Supreme Court made clear that Atlanta-area residents and businesses can continue to rely on the lake as the region’s primary source of drinking water, Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens said.
“It is my hope that we can finally put this decades-long legal dispute to rest and work together with our sister states ­– in meeting rooms, not courtrooms ­­– to develop a fair and equitable water sharing plan,” Olens said in a prepared statement.
Lake Lanier’s future as a water supply has been uncertain since a U.S. District Court judge ruled against Georgia in 2009 and gave state and regional water planners three years to work out a different arrangement with Alabama and Florida.
But last year, the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the lower court ruling, leading Alabama and Florida to ask the Supreme Court to take up the case.
Throughout the tri-state dispute, lawyers for Florida and Alabama have sought to limit the quantity of water Georgia could hold above Buford Dam, arguing that the two states needed an adequate flow of water down the Chattahoochee River for wildlife protection and power production.
Georgia has defended the ability of Atlanta-area water utilities to withdraw enough water from the reservoir to meet the needs of the fast-growing metro region.
“By denying a hearing of the decision of the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in the tri-state water case, the nation’s highest court has affirmed that drinking water was always an authorized use of Lake Lanier,” Gov. Nathan Deal said, in a statement. “We felt confident in the firm grounding of the Eleventh Circuit ruling. We can now move forward with this issue behind us, have the governors work together and come to a long-term agreement that will provide for the water needs of all three states.

Dave Williams covers Government

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