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2005-2006 Florida, Alabama, Georgia Water Issues

December, 2006

Florida, Georgia, Alabama 'water wars' talks deadline extended

Confidential talks between Georgia, Alabama and Florida over how to share the water in the Chattahoochee River have been extended through Jan. 31, according to a spokesman for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. The deadline for the talks had been set for Wednesday by a federal judge in Alabama. The mediator is a retired judge from California. The original deadline for the current talks was Aug. 31. This is the second extension. Georgia began negotiating with its neighbors over water rights again in April, nearly three years after breaking off Congressionally sanctioned talks. Those tri-state water talks lasted five years before the sides decided they were too far apart to continue. And it all began 16 years ago, when Alabama and Florida first took Georgia to court to stop metro Atlanta from taking too much water. What's at stake was clearly defined this summer, at the start of the current drought. Georgia wants more water out of Lake Lanier to meet the growing demands of metro Atlanta, while homeowners around the lake want enough water to keep their docks afloat. The Chattahoochee, which flows through Lanier, is the main water supply for about 3 million metro Atlantans. Florida wants enough water flowing downstream to protect its multi-million dollar oyster industry in the Apalachicola Bay, and to fill the swamps and wetlands that support alligators, river otter and other wildlife. Alabama also wants a steady supply of water, mostly to meet industrial needs that include a nuclear power plant near Dothan. Usually, there's enough water to satisfy everyone. The problems arise when there's a drought. Atlanta Journal-Constitution_ 12/19/06

Army Corps of Engineers to begin public meetings on water releases from Lake Lanier to Georgia, Alabama and Florida

The Corps was greatly criticized in June when it accidentally released 22 billion gallons of water from the lake, a major source of drinking water for the fast-growing Atlanta metropolitan area. The first meeting, to be held at the Georgia Mountains Center in Gainesville, will be followed by sessions in Atlanta, LaGrange, Ga., Dothan, Ala., and ending on Dec. 6 in Tallahassee, Fla. — all areas that are greatly impacted by the water release. The Corps is preparing an environmental impact statement on proposed water storage contracts in Lake Lanier. Georgia has said the Corps is sending too much water to Florida. But Florida contends it needs even more water to protect the Gulf sturgeon fish and rare freshwater mussels. Alabama wants a steady supply of water to meet its industrial needs, including a nuclear power plant near Dothan. AP/al.com_ 11/26/06

Alabama, Florida, Georgia water war fought on outdated information

A top U.S. Army Corps of Engineers official promised to update 50-year-old manuals used to regulate contested river systems in Georgia, Florida and Alabama, a move that could ease water concerns and might even set the stage for a cease-fire in the protracted tri-state water wars. The commitment came at a field hearing conducted Tuesday by Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, on the effects of the Corps' management of the Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa and Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River basins. Critics say the Corps is operating with outdated information and releasing too much water downstream to sustain endangered mussels and sturgeons in Florida's Apalachicola River, at the expense of residents farther north. Brig. Gen. Joseph Schroedel, the new commander of the Corps' South Atlantic Division which stretches from Virginia to Mississippi, said the Corps plans to begin updating its water management manuals in January, but will need some additional funding to complete the job. The old manuals may not accurately reflect the growth along the rivers and the current water needs of towns, industries and recreational lakes. Chambliss and the other lawmakers assured him they'd find the money. AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution_ 10/25/06

Georgia, Alabama governors meet in court-ordered water sharing negotiations

The governors from Georgia and Alabama met again Tuesday to negotiate a solution to the ongoing water dispute that involves Lake Lanier. Governor Perdue and Alabama Governor Bob Riley met in Alexander City, Alabama for their court ordered negotiation. Their focus is to reach an agreement to manage the Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa river basin. “Governor Riley and I have now met twice in person, which I believe is indicative of the importance we mutually place on ensuring a sustainable water supply for our citizens,” said Governor Sonny Perdue. “Our shared resolve to address our differences over the allocation of the ACT’s water resources is accomplishing a great deal and I am hopeful that our continuing work will result in a resolution." Access North Georgia_ 10/3/06

Florida asks Alabama judge to ditch deal on rivers arguing pact unfairly benefits Georgia, Corps of Engineers

Alabama, Florida and Georgia have been battling in federal court over water from the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river system since 1990. Alabama and Georgia want water for future growth while Florida wants water for fish and wildlife along the Apalachicola River and the seafood industry at Apalachicola Bay. Florida suggests that the agreement involving Lake Lanier creates an advantage for Georgia and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in court-ordered mediation among the states and federal government. The agrement would allow cities to draw up to 537 million gallons of water each day from Lake Lanier. Florida asked District Judge Karon O. Bowdre of Birmingham, Ala., to hold a hearing on Alabama and Florida's earlier request to throw out the agreement. Meanwhile, a status report filed Monday says representatives of the three states met two weeks ago in Alabama, apparently to lay the groundwork for a meeting of the governors of Alabama, Florida and Georgia. Tallahassee Democrat_ 10/3/06

Twenty-Six Mayors Sign on to Help Fight Alabama's 'Water Wars'
A group of twenty-six (26) mayors hailing from cities and towns in the Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa (ACT) river basin have signed a letter urging Governor Riley, Senators Shelby, Sessions and Alabama's Congressional Delegation to "stay the course" in the effort to secure dredging funds and in the ongoing negotiations surrounding the "Water Wars."

"Governor Riley and our Congressional representatives should be commended for standing up for our water rights, but doing so in a way that is constructive and cooperative," said Jerry Sailors, president of the Coosa- Alabama River Improvement Association (CARIA). "Adequate water levels are essential to many long-term issues including economic growth, navigation, hydropower, flood control and recreation.  As the negotiations with Georgia and the U.S. Corps of Engineers go forward, know that you have our full support toward reaching an accord that is reasonable, sensible, and most importantly, fair."   Press Release_ 9/26/06


Florida says study supports its argument in water wars
A new study shows that Florida's Apalachicola River water level has declined more than previously thought. Florida environment spokesman says the study backs Florida's argument for increasing flows into the river from upstream in Georgia and along the Georgia-Alabama line.  It's the latest development in the ongoing water wars between Georgia, Alabama and Florida, a battle that directly affects Lake Lanier.  The U.S. Geological Survey report examined water level drops over the past half century that have caused drier conditions in wetlands and adjacent river flood plains.  The governors of Georgia and Alabama have resisted Florida's push to increase water flows from two upstream tributaries, the Chattahoochee and Flint rivers, and reservoirs in their states to help restore Apalachicola habitats for fish and wildlife.  AccessNorthGa.com_8/23/06

Alabama and Georgia governors to work out water sharing agreement; Florida doesn't send representative to the meeting

Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue and Alabama Gov. Bob Riley say they will work on a water agreement on the Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa river basin separately from the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river basin that involves Florida. Georgia has been involved since the 1990s in a dispute with neighboring Alabama and Florida over how to manage the Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa and the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river basins. The decade-long water sharing dispute in the two river basins has been in mediation since May before a former federal judge. Perdue and Riley say they believe there are only minor differences to be worked out in the Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa dispute and are confident the dispute can be resolved. They say they plan to work with Florida on resolving that state's concerns about sharing of water in the Chattahoochee-Flint-Apalachicola river basin. Florida Gov. Jeb Bush didn't attend the meeting because of a scheduling conflict and Perdue said Bush didn't send a representative. AP/AccessNorthGa.com_ 8/14/06

Florida, Georgia, Alabama water sharing: The back story

On the eve of talks between Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue and Alabama Gov. Bob Riley, here's a recap of the recent history in the 16-year water conflict. The water issue has been divisive at every level, including in Congress. And the 50-year-old water plan for the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint basin is caught in the mix. Gainesville Times_ 8/13/06

Governors Perdue, Riley to discuss Ga. Ala. water war
Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue and his Alabama counterpart plan to meet later this month to discuss the water-sharing issues facing the two states, six days after a Congressional hearing in Gainesville on the water war.  Perdue sent a letter June 22 to the governors of both Alabama and Florida seeking a personal meeting to resolve the 16-year battle between the three states over water.  In the letter, Perdue told Bob Riley and Jeb Bush "I believe that our personal involvement in mediation at this time is essential." Perdue and Riley will meet August 14 in Columbus.  Access North Ga._8/ 3/06

Judge rules to keep water in Chattahoochee for Georgia
A federal judge in Alabama has ruled against Florida's request in a tri-state water dispute to temporarily give it more water from the Chattahoochee River to save endangered mussels. U-S District Judge Karon Bowdre's order said Florida officials did NOT prove that the actions of the U-S Army Corps of Engineers, which controls the flow of water in the river, harm the mussels.  Bowdre wrote in the order that ``the Corps cannot control the weather, nor can it be held responsible for the effects of the weather on the mussels' habitat.''    Access NorthGa.com_7/25/06

Florida seeks additional water from Chattahoochee system
The state of Florida asked a judge Monday to temporarily give it more water from the Chattahoochee River to save endangered mussels, but a federal wildlife official testified the species would likely survive with far less than Florida wants.  The dispute before U.S. District Judge Karon Bowdre is the latest branch of a continuing fight between Georgia, Florida and Alabama over their shared water resources. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers controls the flow of water through dams on the Chattahoochee, which forms part of the Georgia-Alabama border, and it has been talking with the states to determine the amount that should be released.  Two rare types of the shelled animals - fat three-ridge mussels and purple bankclimber mussels - have died by the hundreds in the Apalachicola River in recent weeks since the corps slowed the amount of water flowing into Florida from the Woodruff Lock and Dam, Florida attorney Thomas R. Wilmoth argued during a hearing.  But the state of Georgia and the Army argued that the deaths were at least partly to blame on a worsening drought, and Gail Carmody of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service disputed suggestions that the reduced water flow could wipe out the endangered mussel species completely.  The judge didn't rule immediately after a daylong hearing but said she would issue an opinion as quickly as possible, partly because there is no dispute that mussels are dying.  "But I'm going to need some time to get that done," said Bowdre. She said the "heart of the entire issue" was whether dry weather or government policies are killing the mussels. Ledger-Enquirer_ 7/24/06

Georgia drops demand on Lake Lanier water

Georgia has dropped its request to force the federal agency that operates Lake Lanier to stop releasing so much water for endangered species in Florida. The state — on orders from Gov. Sonny Perdue — filed for a temporary restraining order June 21 in the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of Georgia against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The same day, Florida countered by filing a similar action in a federal court in Birmingham to force the corps to release more water from Lanier. Through July 24, Florida and Georgia agreed to a compromise: Water will be held back in the lakes for Georgia's water supply, while Florida will get a limited amount of additional water to protect its mussels. In the agreement, Georgia dropped its request for a temporary restraining order, but elected to keep the underlying suit alive. In the suit, the state criticizes the corps for its operation of Lanier and other federal lakes on the Chattahoochee River. Atlanta Journal-Constitution_ 7/12/06

June, 2006

Alabama, Florida, Georgia reach interim agreement on water usage

The dispute involves the Chattahoochee River and endangered freshwater mussels downstream in Florida. The deal creates a storage pool Florida officials can use to release water and protect endangered freshwater mussels and other species. The agreement reached Friday expires on July 24. The court will then hold another hearing on the matter, if the states haven't already agreed on a longer-term agreement. It's also a positive sign for resolving larger water-sharing issues involving the states for more than 15 years, said Jeff Emerson, Alabama Gov. Bob Riley's spokesman. AP/Daily Comet_ 6/30/06

Alabama, Florida, Georgia say they are working out details to end 16-year dispute and share water

Alabama's chief deputy attorney general said negotiations are progressing in a tri-state water dispute over how to share water from the Chattahoochee River. The comments came as a federal judge ordered the water flow from the river into Florida reduced from 6,750 cubic feet per second to 6,250. The order was issued Tuesday evening after a teleconference with the judge and attorneys. Another teleconference was set for Wednesday afternoon, according to the order by U.S. District Judge Karon Bowdre in the Northern District of Alabama. Alabama, Florida and Georgia have been trying to determine how much water to send down the Chattahoochee River to protect freshwater mussels in a Florida river but leave enough water upstream for Georgia and Alabama. The three states all use water out of the Chattahoochee. They have been fighting over how to divide it since 1990. AP/al.com_ 6/27/06 (logon required)

Georgia, Alabama, Florida tell federal judge Chattahoochee River deal in works

Georgia, Florida and Alabama officials told a federal judge Monday they are working out details over how much water to send down the Chattahoochee River to protect freshwater mussels in a Florida river but still leave enough water upstream in Georgia's lakes for human consumption, a Georgia official said. After the 5 p.m. conference call with U.S. District Judge Karon Bowdre of the Northern District of Alabama, Georgia Environmental Protection Division Director Carol Couch said the sides are "continuing to work to put together a detailed understanding of the agreement." The three states, which all use water out of the Chattahoochee, have been fighting over how to divide it since 1990. They came slightly closer to a long-term agreement Monday. After the call Monday, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which operates Lake Lanier and three other lakes on the Chattahoochee, began sending roughly 4 percent less water to Florida. The three states are scheduled for another teleconference with Bowdre today at 6 p.m. Atlanta time, Couch said, in which a longer-term water sharing agreement could be reached. Atlanta Journal-Constitution_ 6/27/06

Break-through in Georgia, Florida, Alabama water wars - temporary deal will send more water to Florida

Georgia, Florida and Alabama agreed Friday on a temporary deal that will send Florida's protected mussels the water they need and still leave Georgians enough water for drinking. The new allocation, which took effect Friday night, requires the corps to release 25 percent more water than it has in recent days. It is still more than Georgia wants to give up, but is doable in the short-term, state officials said. The agreement, thrashed out in five hours of federal courtroom negotiation, could be a breakthrough and lead to a long-term settlement of the "water wars" between the three states that have bickered and litigated for 16 years over how to share water in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river system. Most of the biggest players involved in the long-running battle for water participated in Friday's hearing, with attorneys on hand from Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Southern Company power utility and the Atlanta Regional Commission. On Monday, the three states will report back to U.S. District Judge Karon Bowdre by 5 p.m. EST, possibly with a longer-term water-sharing agreement. Atlanta Journal-Constitution_ 6/24/06 (logon required)

Alabama federal judge orders Georgia water released to Florida

A federal judge has ordered the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to release more water from Georgia into Florida, citing the federal Endangered Species Act. U.S. District Judge Karon Bowdre ruled Thursday afternooon that 8,000 cubic feet per second be released from the Jim Woodruff Lock and Dam at Georgia's Lake Seminole for 10 days unless future court orders rule otherwise. Bowdre said in court documents the extra water is necessary to save certain protected mussel species in the Apalachicola River in Florida that are in danger of extinction. The Apalachicola is formed by the confluence of the Chattahoochee River along the Georgia-Alabama line and the Flint River at Lake Seminole, located along the Florida border. Prior to the order, the corps had been releasing 5,000 cubic feet per second of water from Georgia reservoirs along the Chattahoochee River to protect Florida mussels and Gulf sturgeon. Georgia has already protested that too much water had been taken from reservoirs along the Chattahoochee River system and filed on Wednesday a temporary restraining order to limit the amount of water the Corps could take from its lakes. AP/Ledger-Enquirer_ 6/23/06

Georgia to sue Corps of Engineers over Lake Lanier

The state of Georgia said it is taking legal action against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers over its management of water releases from lakes Lanier, West Point, Walter F. George and Seminole on the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (ACF) River system. The state said it is concerned with ongoing dry weather and the potential for dangerously low lake levels. According to the state, Col. Pete Taylor, commander of the Corps' Mobile District, notified the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) on Saturday that the Corps had miscalculated the amount of water stored in Lake Lanier. Taylor said the lake is at 1065.72 feet above sea level, which is actually 1.9 feet lower than the Corps previously reported. The state said this means the Corps mistakenly released approximately 22.5 billion gallons of water from Lanier, as the region approaches what is traditionally the driest time of the year. The state said it will file a motion for a temporary restraining order asking that the Corps be directed to allow only the minimum necessary flow in the Apalachicola River at Chattahoochee, Fla. The legal action is intended to require the Corps to allow the lakes to refill and recover the stored water lost to downstream releases. The Corps has been attempting to manage flow releases to support Gulf sturgeon and endangered mussels in Florida. Atlanta Business Chronicle_ 6/20/06

U.S. Supreme Court ruling for Georgia doesn't end water wars with Alabama and Florida

Georgia's water wars victory at the U.S. Supreme Court doesn't mean the 16-year-old legal battle with Alabama and Florida is anywhere close to an end. Other legal disputes over the use of water resources shared by the three states are being fought in different courts in Birmingham and Washington, D.C. On Monday, the Supreme Court rejected an appeal from Alabama and Florida involving increased water distribution for the Atlanta area. Matt Lembke, a Birmingham attorney who represents Alabama in the water wars, said the decision was no surprise because the Supreme Court reviews few cases. But he said it doesn't mean Atlanta is suddenly going to get more water. At issue is an agreement Georgia reached with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in a separate case in 2003. The agreement would allow the Atlanta area to use more water from Lake Lanier and the Chattahoochee River than permitted under previous formulas. Florida and Alabama argued in court that the agreement violated earlier orders in the water wars involving the three states. U.S. District Judge Karon Bowdre in Birmingham put a freeze on the agreement, but the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that, saying an injunction was the wrong action. Alabama and Florida then took their unsuccessful appeal to the Supreme Court. AP/AccessNorthGeorgia_ 6/14/06

Georgia fears water shortages at reservoirs
Georgia claims the federal government is draining too much water from major reservoirs along the Chattahoochee River to protect endangered species in Florida, and it fears the use will cause water shortages this year, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.  Because of drought conditions, the Army Corps of Engineers has been releasing more water than normal from Lake Lanier, West Point Lake, Walter F. George Reservoir and Lake Seminole to maintain stream levels for endangered mussels and the Gulf sturgeon.  Gov. Sonny Perdue sent a letter to Army Secretary Francis J. Harvey on Friday, claiming that unless the Corps of Engineers scales back the water releases, those lakes "will be drawn down to their lowest level in recorded history."  Corps officials argue that Georgia is using incorrect modeling to predict how low the reservoirs' water levels will fall. Pat Robbins, spokesman for the Corps of Engineers' Mobile District, said the agency's own simulations show the reservoirs will not drain any lower than they did during the state's heavy drought in 2000.   The Washington Post_ 6/7/06

May, 2006

Atlanta's sprawl may be edging toward Alabama

In a single-story brick and glass building in Douglas County, behind a Target and attached to a bank on Chapel Hill Road, Robert Young mulls over the future of 203,000 acres of scattered North Georgia forests. If grouped together, the tracts would make a block of land 17.8 miles long and wide. Forty thousand acres are within a 50-mile radius of Atlanta. Plans are already laid for more than one-quarter of that — 11,810 acres for a single development in Carroll County called Wolf Creek. Its size will change the face of exurban development in Georgia, challenging governments and planning agencies trying to sort out how to divvy up water and sewer capacity, build roads, schools and provide services. When built out in 25 or more years, the estimated 58,000 residents of Wolf Creek — Carroll County's current population is 87,000 — will push exurban Atlanta nearly to Alabama. Atlanta Journal-Constitution_ 5/24/06 (logon required)

Georgia may look for a 'water czar' to lead discussion of state and regional water issues

Brad Currey, former CEO of Norcross-based packaging giant Rock-Tenn Co. and an adviser on the new statewide water plan under development, thinks the state should consider a water czar -- a dedicated point person to lead discussion on water issues. He floated the idea May 15 at the Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District's annual summit, held at the Georgia Aquarium. The water czar could serve as the top authority on the plan and the tri-state Georgia, Florida, Alabama, water talks currently in mediation. He or she could also act as a liaison between businesses, environmentalists and local governments, and work to strike a balance between metro Atlanta's need for more water and rural Georgia's reluctance to supply it. Georgia has been struggling for years to provide enough water for Atlanta's residential and commercial development without damaging the state's lakes and streams and the boating and fishing to be had there. The area is expected to add 2.5 million new residents by 2030 and is projected to run out of water unless new sources outside the metro and possibly the state are found by then. Atlanta Business Chronicle_ 5/19/06

April, 2006

Florida, Alabama, Georgia ordered back to the table for water sharing talks

A federal judge in Alabama has ordered Georgia, Alabama and Florida back to the negotiating table in the 16-year tri-state water war. In an order issued Thursday, U.S. District Judge Karon Bowdre appointed Charles B. Renfrew, a former federal judge from California as mediator. Bowdre set a deadline of Aug. 31 for the parties to reach agreement, and ordered the proceedings be kept confidential. Atlanta Journal-Constitution_ 4/22/06

September, 2005

Alabama will appeal the water ruling

Alabama will ask for a full appeals court review of a three-judge panel's decision allowing the Atlanta area to use more water from Lake Lanier and the Chattahoochee River than allowed under earlier orders, Attorney General Troy King said Tuesday. AP/Ledger-Enquirer_ 9/21/05

Federal appeals court rules in favor of Atlanta's water needs

A federal appeals court in Atlanta says it is OK for metro Atlanta to use Lake Lanier and the Chattahoochee River to meet its water needs for the next ten to 20 years. The ruling by the Eleventh U.S. Circuit Court Monday reverses earlier decisions by a federal district court in Alabama. Those decisions blocked metro Atlanta from getting the additional water that state and local officials say is necessary for metro Atlanta to accommodate anticipated growth. Alabama and Florida do not want metro Atlanta to have the additional water. Those states and Georgia -- which share the Chattahoochee River -- have been fighting about the water since 1990. The river supplies metro Atlanta residents with most of their water and is used by Alabama for industry and barges. At the lower end, Florida wants enough water in the river to serve future development and to ensure the health of Apalachicola Bay, a rich estuary and major commercial fishery. The ruling sends the case back to the Alabama court. AP/AccessNorthGa.com_ 9/20/05

Alabama senators lift objections to John Paul Woodley Jr. as assistant secretary of the Army for civil works

Sens. Richard Shelby and Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., said they were lifting the "hold" that had stalled Woodley's nomination for nearly two weeks after being assured that Georgia will not get favorable treatment in a water dispute involving Alabama, Florida and Georgia. It was unclear when Woodley would get a confirmation vote in the Senate. Woodley sent a letter promising to keep in place decades-old regulations governing water sharing in the three states. Alabama lawmakers were concerned that the Army Corps of Engineers wanted to make an update that would benefit Georgia because of the tremendous growth around Atlanta. At issue is whether Atlanta draws too much water from Lake Lanier, costing Alabama and Florida communities downstream the Chattahoochee River their fair share. AP/North County Times_ 4/27/05

Alabama's two U.S. Senators block appointment of  Army's John Paul Woodley Jr. in dispute over Corps of Engineers' treatment of Alabama, Florida and Georgia water issues

Sens. Richard Shelby and Jeff Sessions, both Republicans, said they were concerned Georgia was receiving favorable treatment and put a "hold" on Woodley's nomination as President Bush's choice to be assistant secretary of the Army for civil works. All nine Alabama lawmakers sent a letter to Army Corps of Engineers Commander Carl Strock alleging favoritism toward Georgia in a recent settlement allowing Atlanta to draw more water from Georgia's Lake Lanier. Alabama and Florida communities downstream on the Chattahoochee River allege Atlanta is taking far more than its fair share. AP/San Francisco Chronicle_ 4/15/05



2005-2006 Florida, Alabama, Georgia water issues
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