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2008 Alabama, Florida, Georgia Water Sharing Issues

 

December, 2008

Rains in December ease drought in the South, but Lake Lanier still dry spot

A soggy December has helped much of the South recover from a drought that dried up reservoirs and turned crops and lawns to straw for the past two years, according to a federal report released Thursday. A year ago, thousands of square miles across the region were in "extreme" or "exceptional" drought, the government's two worst categories. The latest U.S. Drought Monitor shows a wet December has helped: None of the region is in the worst category of drought. Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas are drought-free, although a pocket of severe-to-extreme drought persists in the western tip of the Carolinas and northeastern Georgia, including Lake Lanier, vital to the Atlanta area's water supply. Eastern Tennessee, most of Kentucky and parts of Virginia and West Virginia remain in at least a moderate drought. South Texas is the only area in the nation still plagued by exceptional drought. AP/USAToday_ 12/19/08

November, 2008

Feds opposed to Georgia request for Supreme Court review of water wars

The U.S. Justice Department has filed a brief opposing Georgia’s request for review by the U.S. Supreme Court of a key decision in the water war litigation. Earlier this year, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington declared illegal a settlement agreement between Georgia and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that would have reallocated a significant portion of Lake Lanier for Atlanta’s water supply. The appellate court ruled that such a major operational change at Lake Lanier could not be undertaken without congressional approval. That appellate decision represented a critical victory for Alabama and Florida in the 18-year old water war litigation. In August, Georgia filed a petition asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review the appellate court’s decision. The U.S. Justice Department late last week notified the Supreme Court that the federal government opposes any further review of the decision. WTVYnews4_ 11/20/08

Drought tightens grip on north Georgia

The epic drought gripping north Georgia is growing worse as water levels in lakes and streams across the state plumb record depths, feeding the dry conditions that spread rapidly across the northeast corner of the state. Some 12 percent of Georgia is now classified as “exceptional,” compared with just 1 percent last week. About 60 percent of the state is classified in moderate drought or worse, an improvement from three months ago when nearly the entire state was locked in those conditions. Georgia officials are particularly concerned the drought has steadily sapped Lake Lanier, Atlanta’s main water supply, and other key reservoirs scattered across north Georgia. AP/Atlanta Journal Constitution_ 11/14/08

Georgia's Lake Lanier to hold more water this winter in face of drought

In a decision announced Friday, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said sending less water down the Chattahoochee River through metro Atlanta “was determined to have no long-term significant environmental or human impacts." But Lanier still could reach a record low level next month. On Friday, the lake was more than 18 feet below full pool, lower than it has ever been this time of year since it was built in the 1950s. Lanier — either directly or indirectly via the Chattahoochee — provides the water for about 3 million metro Atlantans. Atlanta Journal Constitution_ 11/14/08

Georgia, Florida water wars all about seafood industry: Gov. Perdue

Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue, attending a Republican Governors Association conference, spoke directly to reporters about the on-going 'water wars' between his state, Alabama and Florida.  For years, Florida and Alabama have accused Georgia of withholding too much water from Lake Lanier, drying up river flows into their states that support power plants, industrial users like paper mills and the oyster and shrimp industries in Florida’s Apalachicola Bay.  As a record drought threatened drinking water supplies last year, Georgia pressed the federal government for more, arguing that its needs are more pressing than the other states’. Florida, however, has fought Georgia and argues that the water withdrawals are also hurting the environment, including rare mussels and sturgeon.  Perdue said Florida officials should just say what their argument is really all about: answering to the area’s commercial fishing industry.  “Utilizing the endangered species act as a weapon in this battle is somewhat disingenuous. We know what this is about. We know it’s about the bay and the quality of the bay and the oysters and that very powerful, very loud political constituency,” Perdue said. “Let’s don’t try to make it about a federal law that really it’s not all about, about mussels or about sturgeons.”  Florida Gov. Charlie Crist wouldn’t comment on Perdue’s remarks, saying he would wait to see the outcome of a federal lawsuit on the issue.  AJC_11/12/08

Lake Lanier could set record low in early December
Long range forecasts by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers indicate Lake Lanier could surpass last year's low during the first week of December. The previous record low occurred on December 26, 2007. E. Patrick Robbins, Chief, Public Affairs, said long range predictons show the drought  continuing in northern Georgia, eastern Tennessee, and western South and North Carolina. However, he said, "climate forecasts indicate we could be returning to winter fronts bringing rain showers across the region by the end of November." Since the beginning of 2008, the only releases made from Lake Lanier have been for water supply and water quality purposes below the dam. News Release_ 11/4/08

 

October, 2008

Corps of Engineers begins public discussions of Lake Lanier

The last time the federal government tried to update its operations manual for Lake Lanier and four other reservoirs on the Chattahoochee River, it touched off a tri-state water war. Nineteen years later, with Georgia, Alabama and Florida still battling over how to divide the river, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is trying again. But officials have said the three-year, $5 million effort could be sidetracked by several variables, including pending lawsuits, lack of funding and extreme weather events, such as a worsening drought or floods. Atlanta Journal-Constitution_ 10/22/08

Corps of Engineers opens hearings on Florida, Georgia, Alabama water sharing

People in Apalachicola Bay, Fla., made their case Monday night for their oyster industry during a water sharing hearing conducted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Most of those who addressed corps' officials said all they are asking is for enough water to protect the oyster beds in the bay. The hearing was the first of a series to be held this week and next in Alabama, Florida and Georgia over water in Lake Lanier and other upstream reservoirs. AccessNorthGa.com_ 10/21/08

That budding water war between Obama and Georgia Republicans? Never mind.

The water war between Barack Obama and Georgia Republicans is hereby called off on account of new evidence. A five-paragraph Associated Press story out of Tallahassee on Friday declared that Obama, the Democratic presidential candidate, had taken Florida’s side in the three-decade dispute over water with Georgia and Alabama. The relevant portion is so even-handed as to be meaningless. Nothing new here. Move along. Atlanta Journal Constitution_ 10/17/08

Georgia's senators criticize Obama on water comments

Georgia's two Republican senators are criticizing Democrat Barack Obama for saying he would make Florida's water resources "a priority" if elected president. In a letter to Obama Friday, Sens. Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson called Obama's remarks "unfortunate" and accused him of picking sides in the decades-long water wars among Georgia, Florida and Alabama. Obama released a statement on Florida's water woes Thursday, saying that weak river flows were crippling parts of the state's economy and environment. He said he would renew efforts to protect its water and would call for the states' governors to begin negotiating again on water sharing. Obama's statement focused on Florida's needs, but his campaign has since said he did not intend to suggest that he would put one state's interests over another. AP/Miami Herald_ 10/17/08

Obama politicizes Ga. Fla. Ala.water war; Makes Florida a priority for electoral votes

Democrat Barack Obama is stepping into a three-decade water war between Alabama, Georgia and Florida and he's making Florida a priority.  Florida is also a state he's hoping to win, while Alabama and Georgia are expected to go to Republican John McCain.  Obama released a statement Thursday saying he would make protecting the Apalachicola River and Bay a priority. He's calling for a National Research Council study to ensure enough water comes into Florida to meet environmental and commercial fishing needs.  Florida believes Georgia takes too much water from the river system for municipal use.  Obama is in a tight battle with McCain over Florida's 27 electoral votes - 10 percent of what's needed to win the presidency.  AP_10/17/08

Despite hurricanes, Southeast U.S. drought persists

Epic drought forced officials across the Southeast about a year ago to impose severe water restrictions and warn that Atlanta, ground zero for the dry conditions, could be just months from running short of water. While the drought has eased, its tendrils still extend far and wide across the region. All it takes as reminder of the drought's grip is a look at the level of Lake Lanier, Atlanta's main water supply, which is more than 17 feet below normal. Timely rain from tropical storms and hurricanes have helped. Some 64 percent of the region is now locked in drought, compared to 78 percent last year, according to federal forecasters. Only 2 percent of the area is in the worst category, compared to 24 percent last year. Georgia also benefited from new guidelines by the Army Corps of Engineers, overseer of federal water resources. It allowed Lanier to keep more of its water. The Corps released an average of 683 million gallons of water every day from Lanier in September, compared to more than 1.1 billion gallons a day the same month last year. Forecasters, meanwhile, have continued to warn residents to brace for more dry weather. AP/Columbus Ledger-Enquirer_ 10/11/08

Making a splash

A recent special issue of Scientific American begins “Catch 22: Water vs. Energy” by describing the battle in which Alabama has been locked for two decades with Tennessee, Florida and Georgia — over water. In response to a plan to reduce water flows from reservoirs in Georgia, the article explains, Alabama objected, worried about nuclear power plants that use enormous quantities of water to cool their big reactors. There was potential that the Farley Plant near Dothan would need to shut down. Wait a minute. Alabama’s priority for water usage is for industry’s sake? Consider the following. Our 77,000 miles of rivers and streams have been recognized as a global priority. Alabama is first in the nation for the number of species that live in our water. We also have the first and second waterways with the highest number of imperiled fish species on the continent. Americans are finally giving the energy crisis the attention it warrants. What will it take for us to make the connection between water and energy and the need to address these issues as one — for our rivers, for our security, for our climate and for our pocketbooks? Birmingham Weekly 10/9/08

September, 2008
Corps of Engineers to hold five public meetings on Alabama, Florida, Georgia water sharing manual
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Mobile District, will hold five public scoping meetings during the month of October as part of its review and update of the Water Control Manual (WCM) for the Apalachicola- Chattahoochee-Flint (ACF) River Basin. The public is invited to attend the scoping meetings which will provide information on the WCM update process and afford the opportunity to receive input from the public about
their issues and concerns regarding that process. All five public meetings will be held using an open house format, allowing time for participants to review specific information and to provide comments to the resource staff attending the meeting. The meeting dates and locations are Apalachicola, Fla.: Oct. 20, 2008; Dothan, Ala.: Oct. 21, 2008; LaGrange, Ga.: Oct. 22, 2008; Marietta, Ga: Oct. 23, 2008; Gainesville, Ga.: Oct. 29, 2008. Additional information on the ACF River Basin WCM Update process will be posted on the Mobile District webpage as it becomes available: http://www.sam.usace.army.mil  News Release_ 9/19/08

Alabama meeting answers few questions about Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa River Basin

An Army Corps of Engineers meeting Wednesday night in Gadsden about the Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa River basin left some of those attending a little frustrated. Their concerns about things such as water flow, pool levels and taking water from that basin and giving it to another basin that serves the city of Atlanta weren’t in the scope of the meeting, which was to get input on rewriting the Corps’ water control manual for the basin. The Corps’ projects in the basin are Carters Lake and Lake Allatoona in Georgia and R.F. Henry Lake, Millers Ferry Lake and Claiborne Lake in Alabama. They are operated as multi-purpose reservoirs for flood damage reduction, navigation, environmental and water quality, municipal and industrial use, recreation and hydropower. Less than 1 percent of the basin is in Tennessee, 23.6 percent in Georgia and 75.8 percent in Alabama. Gadsden Times_ 9/18/08

Corps of Engineers holds public meetings in Georgia and Alabama on water management

The Army Corps of Engineers is rewriting its rules on managing the Alabama River and its tributaries, and it is inviting public discussion as well — all in the midst of ongoing conflicts between Georgia and Alabama over those rivers. The Corps on Monday held the first of four public meetings as part of a study and update of its management of the Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa river basin, which flows from northwestern Georgia down across Alabama to Mobile. Along with the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river basin, it has been part of a two-decade feud involving Florida, Georgia and Alabama that has spawned numerous lawsuits. A similar revision and rewriting process is set to begin in October for a new manual for the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint basin. The meeting Monday wasin Kennesaw, Georgia, and three meetings to be held the following three days in Rome, Ga., Gadsden, Ala., and Montgomery, Ala. But the public meetings and the new water manuals, which will take at least three years to produce, will do little to alleviate tension between the three states, said Pat Robbins, a Corps spokesman. The current manual was written in the 1950s. AP/AL.com_ 9/15/08

August, 2008

Fay eases north Georgia drought

Remnants of Tropical Storm Fay are giving Northeast Georgia a soaking like it hasn’t seen in months, meteorologists said. As of Monday evening, Gainesville had received 2.77 inches of rain at Lee Gilmer Memorial Airport since Saturday, when measurable amounts of rain associated with the storm were first gauged in the area, according to the National Weather Service. "It’s definitely one of the more extensive rainfall events in the area in months," said Rob Handel, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Peachtree City. "It’s definitely going to help alleviate some of our drought conditions." Mike Griesinger, a National Weather Service meteorologist, said the rain should ease North Georgia’s "exceptional" drought, noting that Atlanta has a rainfall deficit of 8 inches and Athens 15 inches during the past year. State climatologist David Stooksbury said the rain will improve stream flows, pastures and slightly raise the levels of major reservoirs such as lakes Lanier, Hartwell and Clarks Hill, which are important sources of drinking water. "This is definitely what we need," he said. "It will not end the drought. It will make a dent." Gainesville Times_ 8/25/08

Early dam plan supports Georgia's claim to Lanier water

One of the core issues of the 18-year-old water dispute between Georgia, Florida and Alabama is whether water supply is an authorized use of Lake Lanier. Alabama and Florida contend it was not an original use and are challenging Georgia's agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on water storage based on a 1958 law passed a year after Lanier was completed. However, early documents proposing the reservoir that were obtained by The Times give credence to Georgia's position on drinking water supply. In a report sent to Capitol Hill on May 14, 1947, Secretary of War Robert P. Patterson sent the recommendations for development of the Appalachicola and Chattahoochee rivers to Columbus. The report also mentions Atlanta's need for water supply. Also included is the first reference to recreation, another purpose of Lake Lanier that has been disputed. No estimate was given then of the economic value of recreation on the lake, which is currently believed to be about $1 billion annually. Gainesville Times_ 8/16/08

Georgia plea for water goes to Supreme Court
Georgia asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday to overturn a February ruling that said the state needs congressional approval to use more water from Lake Lanier to supply the fast-growing Atlanta area.  Lanier, which provides most of Atlanta's water, is at the heart of a nearly two-decade water feud between Georgia, Florida and Alabama.  To meet growing needs over the coming decades, Georgia and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers agreed in 2003 to allow the state's withdrawals to jump from about 13 percent of the lake's capacity to about 22 percent.  Florida and Alabama contested the agreement, arguing that the lake was initially built for hydropower and that providing water to Georgia was not an authorized use.  A federal district court sided with Georgia.  But in February, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington overturned that decision, saying the agreement between Georgia and the corps amounted to a major operational change at the reservoir that required congressional approval.  AJC_8/14/08

Central legal question in Florida, Georgia, Alabama water dispute: Is supplying drinking water for Atlanta a primary purpose of Lake Lanier?

The central question in the 18-year-old, tri-state water war could be answered by the end of this year: Does metro Atlanta have the legal right to depend on Lake Lanier as its primary source of drinking water? In a four-page order issued Tuesday, U.S. District Court Judge Paul A. Magnuson said the answer may render other disagreements in the case "obsolete, or at the very least may invalidate" them. Alabama and Florida say Congress established only three purposes for the 60-year-old federal reservoir: to control floods, float barges downstream and generate power. Supplying Atlanta's drinking water was an secondary benefit, they say. Georgia strongly disagrees. Both sides said they are ready to negotiate out of court. Atlanta Journal-Constitution_ 8/12/08

July, 2008

Atlanta-area high school student receives national journalism award for reporting on local drought conditions

Katy Wood, 17, of Acworth, Ga. is the recipient of the third annual ITT Award for Excellence in Student Water Journalism, in recognition of her exploration of the Southeastern water shortage in an article titled, "A Lack of Lakes: Georgia Water Crisis." ITT Corporation, a global leader in water technology, created this award to recognize aspiring journalists and encourage them to explore and report on water-related, environmental issues. Wood, a 2008 graduate of Wheeler High School's Center for Advanced Studies, a science magnet school in Marietta, Ga., tackled this controversial issue and discussed the overall impact of the drought on local communities in her article. A panel of industry leaders and top environmental, science and water journalists assessed the contest entries and selected Wood's article from a pool of articles submitted nationwide. The panel, including judges representing National Geographic, MSNBC, Scientific American and Water Environment & Technology, chose Wood's article, which appeared in the Wheeler High School news magazine, The Catalyst, for its timeliness and national significance. As part of the award, Wood and her journalism faculty advisor, Sarah Wheatley, will receive a trip to Stockholm, Sweden to attend and report from the 2008 Stockholm Water Symposium, which takes place during World Water Week from August 17 through August 23. Wood will also receive a $1,000 scholarship from ITT, which she will use to attend Duke University starting this fall. News Release_ 7/30/08

Former Pres. Jimmy Carter returns to an old fight, opposing three dams on Georgia's Flint River

It was groundbreaking in the 1970s when a loose environmental coalition — with the help of Carter — managed to stave off the plan to build dams along the Flint River. Now the proposal has resurfaced amid the historic drought, with a familiar cast of characters lining up behind it: Powerful Georgia congressmen, backed by real estate agents and business groups, say the dams could help guarantee water for Georgia for decades to come. As before, environmental groups in southwest Georgia are banding together to try to stop it. Again, Carter, now 83, is their most influential supporter, allied anew with the groups he lovingly calls "weirdo environmentalists." The dams would be built along the Flint, which winds more than 200 miles from the south Atlanta suburbs into the Gulf of Mexico. The river already has two small dams, but Reps. Nathan Deal and Lynn Westmoreland are encouraging the Army Corps of Engineers to complete a study of whether the bigger dams can be built. Carter and his supporters are bracing for a bruising fight that could last years. AP_ 7/27/08

Georgia proposes three states pay for water sharing study

Georgia's top environmental official said Thursday the three states that have battled nearly three decades over water shouldn't wait for Congress to approve an independent study on the issue, but should instead pay for it themselves. Florida Sens. Bill Nelson and Mel Martinez and Rep. Allen Boyd want the National Academy of Sciences to study the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin. But with a severe drought increasing tensions over the water Georgia, Florida and Alabama share, Georgia Environmental Protection Division Director Carol Couch said the states could save time by commissioning the study themselves and splitting the cost. She estimated the cost at about $1 million and it could take 2 1/2 years. She said the three states should agree on the study's objectives. Nelson's office and Boyd welcomed the idea. Martinez' office wouldn't immediately comment. AP/Forbes_ 7/25/08

Georgia Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle hosts radio discussion of Georgia, Alabama, Florida water issues

Cagle Friday looked back on the 20-plus years of the tri-state water wars and declared that its time for them to end... and everyone involved needs to understand the needs of all three states. "No one's willing to step up and really take the bull by the horns and do what's necessary and agree upon those minimum level of flows that Alabama needs along with Florida." Georgia House Speaker Glenn Richardson was among leaders from around Georgia and the Lake Lanier area appeared with Cagle during the nearly four-hour broadcast. Richardson said he is not optimistic that Georgia, Florida and Alabama will be able to settle their water wars among themselves. Richardson said, however, the conservation steps Georgia is taking could have a positive impact with the courts. AccessNorthGeorgia_ 7/11/08

Corps of Engineers officials take three-day river trip to  see Florida-Georgia border area

Corps Gen. Joseph Schroedel and Col. Byron Jorns were taken all over the lower Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river system basin by several Jackson County, Florida residents. They started with a boat ride Monday in the Apalachicola River and Bay, and the event culminated in a discussion session Wednesday near the Flint River in Bainbridge, Ga. The trip was co-sponsored by the Apalachicola Riverkeeper and Tri-Rivers Waterway Development Association. They are two key stakeholders in the ACF river system, which courses through Florida, Alabama and Georgia.Greenwood resident Chad Taylor said one of the most vital issues is water allocation practices on the Apalachicola River and how the Corp manages Lake Seminole and the other four reservoirs on the Chattahoochee River. Red Orbit_ 7/10/08

Southeast U.S. still faces drought despite spring rain

Despite some significant spring rain events, the Southeast is still experiencing what some have called the worst drought on record and it is expected to continue through the summer. The National Drought Mitigation Center has classified sizeable areas of Alabama, Georgia and the Carolinas as being in an extreme drought and long-term rainfall deficits remain, ranging from 5-15 inches over the past six months to 12-20 inches over the past 12 months. Montgomery Advertiser_ 7/10/08

Alabama working on laws and enforcement powers for water use

Alabama's 77,000 miles of streams carry 8 percent of the nation's freshwater toward the Gulf of Mexico. Even as reservoirs shrank and utilities rationed water during the peak of a record drought last year, Alabama still had more rain and water resources than many other states. "We don't have a water supply problem. We have a water management problem," said state climatologist John Christy. A legislative committee is just beginning work on a water management plan and hopes to take initial recommendations to the Legislature early next year. Without a state water policy backed up by laws and the political will to enforce them, the state has been weak in its ability to challenge groups from outside - and from within - vying to use Alabama's waters. But getting a plan everyone can agree to likely won't be easy, with about 450 independent water systems, thousands of industries, and many more people who use the water for recreation wanting to have their say. Birmingham News_ 7/7/08

June, 2008

Georgia Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle says possible water sharing law suit by Florida "unconscionable"

Officials in Florida said Friday they intend to sue the Army Corps of Engineers over its decision on how water from Georgia is shared with Florida and Alabama and said the Corps' action threatens endangered species. Georgia Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle called the possible suit "extraordinarily disappointing" and said "I find it unconscionable that the state of Florida would choose to elevate the water needs of the bankclimber and fat threeridge mussel over the needs of millions of human beings in Georgia." A spokesman for Alabama Gov. Bob Riley said his state also is concerned that the Corps' plan favors Georgia. AP/Access North Georgia_ 6/22/08

Florida threatens to sue Corps of Engineers over water sharing with Georgia

At issue are claims the corps is violating the federal Endangered Species Act with drought plans to continue limiting downstream flows of water from reservoirs in northern Georgia into the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin. Under the plan, the state claims the Apalachicola River levels will reach unprecedented lows. That will expose various populations of threatened and endangered mussels and preclude their chance from ever recovering, the state says. Media General News Service_ 6/20/08

Solution to Alabama water woes isn't close

A panel of lawmakers is gathering for the first time today to discuss water issues, but Alabama remains years away from putting in place a comprehensive water management plan, despite nearly three years of drought-like conditions and an ongoing fight with other Southern states over water supplies. Gov. Bob Riley and the Legislature largely ignored water issues during the 2008 legislative session, even as Georgia, currently tussling with Alabama and Florida over access to water for the Atlanta area, implemented its own water management plan. The only major action taken by the Alabama Legislature was the formation of the Joint Legislative Committee on Water Policy and Management to study water issues and propose solutions next year. Drought conditions have improved somewhat since 2007, but the state remains parched, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Eighty-eight percent of the state suffered from drought or abnormally dry conditions through June 10. Extreme drought conditions last year led to water rationing in the state. At one point, 1.9 million people were living under local water restrictions, and rainfall totals were 30 inches below normal. Mobile Press-Register_ 6/16/08

Georgia Lt. Governor wants Corps of Engineers to 'put Georgia first'

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle put most of the blame for Georgia's water issues on "mismanagement by the Corps of Engineers of Lake Lanier.” In a speech to the Forsyth County Conservative Forum in the old public school in Cumming Cagle said with 50 percent of Georgians getting their water from Lake Lanier, people should come before the endangered mussels downstream in Florida. Those mussels have been a major area of concern for the “water war” going on between Florida, Georgia and Alabama. “I for one, as the Lieutenant Governor, am not going to allow the Corps of Engineers to continue to put forth a public policy initiative that does not put Georgia first. And we’ve got to be where we stand up and fight for that." AccessNorthGa_ 6/14/08

Corps of Engineers: Let more states join water fight

The answer to the water war among Florida, Alabama and Georgia is to involve even more states, the Army Corps of Engineers said Thursday. A council of 16 Southeastern states -- akin to one that has long served bickering Western states -- would be the best way to find long-term solutions, Brig. Gen. Joseph Schroedel told Florida's congressional delegation. Schroedel proposed the idea as angry Florida lawmakers vented their objection to an Army Corps plan that could limit water flowing into the state. Schroedel, the corps' commander for the South Atlantic region, told lawmakers the corps will host a workshop this summer to try to get the states to set up a water council, which could work out such issues as common standards for conservation and drought management. Holly Binns of the statewide group Environment Florida said multistate councils work sometimes, but it can take years to work out compromises.Orlando Sentinel_ 6/6/08

Florida congressmen rip Georgia water laws

Florida lawmakers accused Georgia officials of negligence Thursday in managing water consumption, urging the federal government to prevent further damage downstream in Florida's Apalachicola Bay. At a meeting on Capitol Hill, the lawmakers said a recently unveiled federal plan governing the region's river basin gives Georgia a free pass for its conservation failures. They called on the Army Corps of Engineers to rescind the plan and said because Georgia's water consumption affects other states, the federal government should force Georgia to better plan for growth. Bert Brantley, a spokesman for Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, responded that Florida's complaints "simply do not match up with reality." He said the old federal water plan was "literally draining" Lake Lanier, a federal reservoir that is Atlanta's main water source. Lanier hit a record low last year as state officials estimated it held just a few months of easily accessible drinking water. He added that Georgia is implementing its first statewide water management plan and is budgeting about $120 million for the next two years to help local governments upgrade infrastructure and plan new water storage. AP/Sarasota Herald Tribune_ 6/6/08

Congressman claims tri-state water plan rewards Georgia at Florida's expense

A Florida congressman isn't happy with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's views on a tri-state plan for water sharing between Florida, Georgia, and Alabama along the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (ACF) system, arguing the plan rewards Georgia for "failing to plan for their water needs." In its review, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined the water plan will allow for flows as low as 4,500 cubic feet per second and would be in effect for the next five years. But Congressman Allen Boyd (D-North Florida) expressed disappointment, saying the plan also allows for more storage retention in upstream lakes to the detriment of downstream users. He said the new tri-state water plan also fails to address demand management along the system. Atlanta Business Chronicle_  6/2/08

May, 2008

Southern U.S. water providers raise rates despite conservation

After months of putting up with brown lawns and dirty cars to conserve water, many residents of the drought-stricken Southeast are now paying sharp rate increases from utilities scrambling to make up lost revenue. It's like a conservation penalty — cut back, then pay more. But utility operators say they have little choice. Drought-inspired rate hikes and surcharges are somewhat common in parched communities in the West, but it's a new concern for many utilities in the Southeast used to an abundant water supply. Georgia usually gets about 50 inches of rain a year, compared to about 13 in Arizona. Rainfall deficits, higher demand and a three-state fight over federal water resources combined to plunge Georgia into its worst drought in recorded history. Help — of sorts — is on the way. At a water efficiency conference in College Park, officials invited utility heads to submit proposals for some $40 million in state funding for more reservoirs. But the process could likely take decades. AP_ 5/26/08

Homes and businesses in Gwinnett County, Georgia, using less water, which means less money

Using less water is a doubled-edged sword. It's a good thing for efforts to combat the drought. But it's a bad thing for the Gwinnett water system's bottom line. Water system revenues fell 3 percent in the first four months of 2008 over the same period last year, said Pete Frank, deputy director for business services at the Gwinnett County Department of Water Resources. The $1.9 million drop — to $60.2 million from 2007's $62.1 million — may not sound like a lot for an organization with a $206 million annual budget. But it's a shock for a system that has been used to 5 percent to 10 percent growth rates for years. Had the County Commission not approved a rate plan that calls for annual 5 percent rate increases beginning in 2005, before the drought worsened to historic proportions, the water system's budget would be in danger territory with significant cuts or rate hikes likely, Frank said. That money had been intended to pay for growth-related expenses. But with the housing market in the doldrums and the economy slowing, growth is off and the revenues have helped minimize the drought's effects on revenues. The latest drought forecast by state climatologist David Stooksbury predicts that even normal rainfall amounts and weather patterns this summer would result in a worsening of drought conditions across the state. Should revenue declines for the year begin sliding into the 8 percent to 10 percent range, water system officials would likely need to look at cutting costs or further raising rates to make up the difference, Frank said. Atlanta Journal-Constitution_ 5/21/08

U.S. water experts meet in Atlanta, Georgia for first water summit

The state of Georgia is not alone in dealing with water issues. As more communities across the country are experiencing record drought, 2008 will bring a renewed discussion of the importance of water conservation and how communities can plan now to avoid water shortages later. Now Georgia is hosting a first-of-its-kind water conservation summit on May 21-22 at the Georgia International Convention Center in Atlanta. "Can Water Conservation Really Work for a Water System's Bottom Line?" will bring together conservation, utility, and financial experts from across the United States in Atlanta to discuss long-term ways to promote water efficiency while also helping communities, water utilities, and businesses. The conference is being organized by Georgia's Department of Natural Resources, Georgia Association on Water Professionals, Georgia Water Wise Council, the Alliance for Water Efficiency, and San Antonio Water System. San Antonio Water System's participation is being provided with seed money from Harvard University's Ash Institute. Centre Daily_ 5/19/08

Alabama Gov. Bob Riley's comment on U.S. Court of Appeals ruling in water sharing dispute with Georgia

The U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington Thursday sided with Alabama and Florida in denying Georgia’s request to reconsider a recent ruling concerning the ongoing water sharing dispute among the three states: “The court’s ruling is, without question, another major victory for Alabama and Florida. All along, it has been our contention that the secret agreement Georgia and the Corps made in 2003 was illegal. Earlier this year, the United States Court of Appeals in Washington agreed with us, and now the court has denied Georgia’s request for a rehearing of this matter. That secret agreement has been a main obstacle in putting together a reasonable water sharing plan among the three states. We in Alabama hope the removal of this stumbling block means progress can now be made." Montgomery Advertiser_ 5/16/08

Georgia's appeal of Lake Lanier water ruling denied

A federal appeals court has denied Georgia's request to reconsider a recent ruling that denied metro Atlanta more water from Lake Lanier. A three-judge panel of U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington denied the request without comment in a ruling issued Thursday. The court's earlier ruling invalidated a 2003 settlement among the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which operates Lanier, federal hydropower customers, who buy electricity produced at the dam, Georgia, and metro Atlanta governments. Alabama and Florida strongly opposed the agreement. In February, the appeals court ruled the amount of water metro Atlanta wanted — about 14 percent of Lanier's water — constituted a major operational change that would require congressional approval. Atlanta Journal-Constitution_ 5/16/08

Corps of Engineers to reduce water releases from Lake Lanier

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has agreed to Georgia's request to send less water from Lake Lanier into the Chattahoochee River as it winds through metro Atlanta, at least through the end of the month. The federal agency that operates Lake Lanier already had reduced the flows from the lake for six weeks in March and April, also at Georgia's request. Reducing the releases is one reason Lanier has risen nearly 3 feet since mid-March, despite inflows into the lake from feeder streams and rivers that have been well below normal. Still, the lake remains about 13 feet below full, a record for this time of year. AP/AccessNorth Ga_ 5/15/08

Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue signs OK for state to sue Tennessee if boundary negotiations fail

Governor Perdue signed a measure that authorizes the state to file a lawsuit if negotiations to redraw the Tennessee border fail. In 1796, surveyors were one mile off the mark. That keeps precious water supplies in Tennesee, and out of Georgia. wjbf_ 5/15/08

Florida skewers Georgia on easing water restrictions

Georgia's decision in February to ease outdoor-watering restrictions in metropolitan Atlanta undercuts its claims the federal government should continue limiting downstream flows out of that state, a Florida official says. "The proposal is unjustified in light of Georgia's unfathomable refusal to implement and sustain meaningful water-conservation measures," said Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Michael Sole in a letter released May 8. Sole's letter to the U.S. Corps of Engineers instead suggests Georgia should address worries about reservoir levels near Atlanta "by aggressively implementing all authorized measures available to reduce demands on the Chattahoochee and Flint rivers." Dated May 6, the letter is the latest salvo fired in the decades-old feud between Florida, Georgia and Alabama over water from the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river system, exacerbated by what has been two years of regional drought conditions. In February, Georgia asked the Corps to again reduce water flows into the Chattahoochee from Lake Lanier, a reservoir north of Atlanta. It did so by describing it as a "temporary" drought-contingency measure. At first, Florida did not object as long as the reductions did not extend beyond April 1, when there could start to affect wildlife or fish spawning on the Apalachicola River, including freshwater mussels and sturgeon in Apalachicola Bay. But the Corps has since allowed the flow reduction to continue. Despite the reductions, water levels at the reservoir remain about 13 feet below normal. And Georgia is asking for an extension to May 31. Sole is objecting, saying it would be an "unprecedented action during spawning season." Tampa Tribune_ 5/9/08

Georgia's water czar lifts some restrictions, but not for Atlanta

Carol Couch said Tuesday she was lifting a mandate to utilities in 61 North Georgia counties to reduce water use by 10 percent, and she may even allow those utilities to use more water this summer from reservoirs that refilled over the winter. But that deal — said Couch, director of the Georgia Environmental Protection Division — extends only to about 200 North Georgia utilities and communities that don't rely on Lake Lanier for their water. It excludes the city of Atlanta; Fulton, Cobb, DeKalb, Gwinnett and Forsyth counties; and other municipalities in metro Atlanta that rely on Lanier for the estimated 600 million gallons of water metro Atlanta consumes each day — 65 percent of it originating from Lake Lanier. The reason for that, Couch told a meeting of the State Drought Response Committee, is Lanier is 13 feet below full, the lowest point the lake has ever been at this time of year in its more than 50-year history. Atlanta Journal-Constitution_ 5/7/08

April, 2008

Florida takes issue with plan to keep more water in Georgia
Florida told the federal government Wednesday it "strongly opposes" a proposal to store more water in Georgia while limiting flows into Apalachicola Bay, saying to do so would harm oysters and federally protected sturgeon and mussels.  In a letter, Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Michael Sole said there is no legitimate or legal reason to keep more water in Lake Lanier, metro Atlanta's main source of drinking water. The lake is more than half full, "and therefore there is no threat to municipal and industrial demands," he wrote.  Sole was responding to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' proposed operations plan, released in March, for five federal dams on the Chattahoochee River. Under the plan, which could take effect June 1, more water would be kept in Lanier and the other reservoirs in Georgia during severe droughts while the minimum flow of water into Florida's Apalachicola River would be reduced.  Sole said the effect would be to "starve the Apalachicola River and Bay of freshwater flows needed to keep the ecosystems, species, and economy alive." The area produces about 90 percent of Florida's oysters.  Atlanta Journal Constitution_4/30/08

Forgotten Georgia county now in spotlight over water rights

Residents of Dade County have spent much of their history feeling ignored by the rest the state. For decades people had to cut through Alabama or Tennessee to get to the county in the northwest corner of Georgia, and some residents still get key services from out of state. It even got left off the state quarter. But the county of 16,000 is finally getting some attention thanks to a historic drought - and the fact that it's the only part of Georgia that's a stone's throw from the massive Tennessee River. Lawmakers in drought-stricken Georgia have empowered the governor to sue to correct a flawed 1818 survey that mistakenly placed Georgia's northern line just short of the Tennessee River, which boasts a flow about 15 times greater than the one Atlanta depends on for water. Dade County's tantalizing proximity to the river figures to give the county a prominent role in negotiations. AP/Charlotte Observer_ 4/28/08

$138 mistake led to release of 22 billion gallons of water from Lake Lanier

More than a year before Georgia's historic drought demanded the Atlanta area's attention, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers accidentally released about 22 billion gallons of water downstream from Lake Lanier in 2006, while trying to save taxpayers $138. That's the cost of a simple metal pulley the Corps decided not to replace when workers thought they fixed a gauge that measures the water level at Lanier, the Atlanta area's main source of drinking water. Because of a miscommunication over whether that part was replaced with a different-size pulley, the Corps calibrated the gauge incorrectly, according to a Corps investigative report obtained under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act. As a result, the gauge indicated the lake level was higher than it actually was, causing the Corps to release too much water downstream over a 52-day period ending in June 2006. The water would have been released eventually and would all be gone by now. Still, the blunder raises questions about the stewards of our drinking water as we enter the third year of a drought that is not expected to end anytime soon. Atlanta Journal-Constitution_ 4/20/08

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist criticizes federal water sharing proposal for tri-state region

A federal proposal that would let Georgia keep more water during droughts instead of letting it eventually flow into Apalachicola Bay means Florida would be "bearing the brunt" of problems created in dry times, Gov. Charlie Crist said Friday. Florida has been quiet since the Army Corps of Engineers announced a proposal Tuesday that would allow greater storage in upstream lakes and lower river flows into Florida. But in a statement Friday, Crist said, "We will continue to pursue all opportunities to ensure protection for Florida's environment, economy and quality of life." Florida, Alabama and Georgia have fought for nearly two decades over water rights in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint and the Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa river basins. AP/Miami Herald_ 4/18/08

Corps of Engineers proposes new Georgia, Florida, Alabama water sharing plan

The Corps of Engineers on Tuesday proposed a new southeastern water-sharing plan that would allow greater storage in upstream lakes and lower river flows into Florida's Apalachicola Bay - a move that the corps acknowledged is likely to harm threatened species. The new plan comes after settlement negotiations among the governors of Florida, Georgia and Alabama broke down in February, prompting Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne to say that the federal government would impose its own solution. In times of extreme drought, the plan would continue a temporary provision announced last fall allowing river flows to dip below the current minimum of 5,000 cubic feet per second at the Jim Woodruff Dam, near the Florida border. Under particularly wet conditions, it also allows for reservoirs such as Lake Lanier, north of Atlanta, to keep up to 50 percent of their inflow instead of the current maximum of 30 percent. While those provisions seem designed to please Georgia, a spokesman for Gov. Sonny Perdue said the state still was reviewing the impact of the full proposal. Florida and Alabama officials also withheld comment. The plan - to be finalized by June 1, when the temporary arrangement announced by Kempthorne last fall expires - covers the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river basin that runs south into Florida along the Georgia-Alabama line. Barring new developments, it is likely to remain in place for several years. AP/Macon Telegraph_ 4/16/08

In the Southeast U.S., wasteful water habits dry up, for some

Across the region, in big ways and small, people have responded to the historic drought now entering its third year in the Southeast. Some changes are short-term. Sprinklers will help rejuvenate brown lawns when the drought ends. Restaurants that now serve water only on request may again welcome diners with an icy glassful. Some adjustments have been reactionary, like the General Assembly's sudden interest in moving Georgia's border one mile north to encompass the richly flowing Tennessee River. Other changes could be longer lasting, perhaps marking the end of the region's cavalier attitude toward water. After years of talking about it, some metro cities and counties are offering rebates to residential water customers who replace old, water-guzzling toilets. Alice Champagne, the city of Roswell's water resources manager, calls this drought a tipping point. "If you look at other states that have been dealing with [water limits] a lot longer, they have year-round education. It's a way of life," Champagne said. "I think this is just the beginning of us changing to that way of life. It could take 10 to 15 years." Atlanta Journal-Constitution_ 4/5/08

March, 2008

Drought relief: Lawrenceville, Georgia removes uranium, radium from water wells

WaterWebster Staff report

March 28, 2008

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Lawrenceville, Georgia has begun a program to clean naturally-occurring uranium and radium from three closed water wells, enabling the community to cut its dependence on drought-drained Lake Lanier by 20 percent, officials at Colorado-based Water Remediation Technology said Friday. "By this time next year, we should have 150 million gallons in water replacement for the city of Lawrenceville," said Rick Zahnow, WRT's eastern regional sales manager. To visualize how much water that is, imagine 7,500 backyard swimming pools. According to the EPA, uranium can be found naturally in soil, water and food at low concentrations. But high levels of these contaminants ingested over a long period of time can lead to serious health problems. (full story)

Feds may be key if Georgia is to tap Tennessee water

Tennessee legislators repelled "Georgia's heinous assault" on their state's sovereignty this month when the House voted unanimously to oppose Georgia's attempt to adjust the border between the states. Unfazed, Georgia officials vowed to take Tennessee to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary to remedy the 190-year-old border dispute and, in the process, gain access to the bountiful Tennessee River to slake North Georgia's drought. Georgia, though, could launch another legal attack. Federal land — not controlled by Tennessee — lies between Georgia and the river. The Tennessee Valley Authority, a federal agency that manages the river, owns the half-mile slice of largely untrammeled property separating Dade County, Ga., from the river. TVA policy allows adjacent landowners to cross its property to reach the Tennessee River. Georgia, conceivably, could bypass a spat with the state by dealing directly with the federal government. Atlanta Journal-Constitution_ 3/26/08

Georgia moves from exceptional to extreme drought

For the first time since last July, the state has emerged from the most severe condition given by the U.S. Drought Monitor. "If this were a hospital patient, this would be like going from grave to critical," said state climatologist David Stooksbury. Back-to-back weeks of 1 to 3 inches of rain across northern Georgia, the Cumberland Plateau of Tennessee and the western Carolinas helped improve the drought situation. The only Southeastern area remaining in the D4, or exceptional drought, condition is a small area of Northeast Alabama and South Central Tennessee. Stooksbury said that 80 years out of 100, soils would be wetter in late March than they currently are. Another measure of the drought conditions is the inflows into Lake Lanier from the Chattahoochee and Chestatee rivers. The Chattahoochee is flowing into Lanier at a rate of 655 cubic feet per second. The normal flow at this time of year would be 988 cfs, meaning the inflow is 66 percent of normal. From the Chestatee the inflow is 312 cubic feet per second, against a normal flow of 464 cfs or about 67 percent of normal. "Inflows are falling," Stooksbury said. The University of Georgia’s weather station near the Olympic rowing venue has received 14.27 inches of rain in 2008. Normal would be 15.28 inches. Through Monday, Hall County received 5.8 inches in March, which is above the normal March rainfall of 4.65 inches. The rainfall has been reflected in the continued rise in the level of Lake Lanier at Buford Dam. Tuesday morning, the lake was at 1,056.28 feet above mean sea level. The lake has risen nearly 3 feet since the first of March. Gainesville Times_ 3/26/08

Drought eases in southeast U.S., water wars persist

It's raining again in the Southeast. The drought has not ended, but it has eased across most of the region, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor and the National Weather Service. Lake Purdy, the main drinking water supply for Birmingham, Ala., is at normal levels for the first time in almost a year. North Carolina dropped recently from 39 to zero counties in the worst category of drought. Here in Atlanta, where stark pictures of a drier-by-the-day Lake Lanier pushed the drought into the national spotlight last fall, the drought is essentially over, says Pat Stevens, chief of the environmental planning division of the Atlanta Regional Commission. Now comes a tougher challenge: resolving new and long-standing disputes over water that some experts say could hamper the region's emergence as an economic and population powerhouse. In a part of the nation where water shortages have not traditionally been an issue, it's difficult to tell whether even a historic drought has made a lasting difference, some scholars say. "The Southeast has not yet come to grips with the fact that it has a water problem, that it needs to plan for its water usage, that it can't take for granted that all the water it needs will always be there," says Robin Craig, a law professor and water expert at Florida State University's College of Law. Bitter battles over water could thwart the Southeast's evolution as one of 10 "mega-regions" across the USA, says Harry West, a professor at Georgia Tech's Center for Quality Growth and Regional Development. USA Today_ 3/18/08

Corps of Engineers will cut water releases from Lanier; Reduction won't be as much as Georgia requested
Starting Friday, March 14, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will reduce the amount water flowing from Lake Lanier, but not by as much as Georgia requested.  The move could keep as much as 64.6 million gallons of water a day in Lanier, or about as much as Gwinnett County withdraws from the lake during the winter. The corps took the same action during the last drought, in 2001 and 2002, to preserve water in Lanier, metro Atlanta's main source of drinking water.  Georgia Environmental Protection Division Director Carol Couch issued a statement saying she appreciates the corps' careful evaluation of her request to cut the water releases through April 30. In its evaluation, the corps agreed with EPD that sending less water down the Chattahoochee River will not compromise water quality as long as cool temperatures continue to raise the amount of dissolved oxygen in the water.  As the water warms, dissolved oxygen declines. Oxygen is an important indicator of water quality and is critical to river life.  On Feb. 11, Couch asked the corps to leave as much as 129.2 million additional gallons of water a day in Lanier. That would mean reducing the amount of water flowing down the Chattahoochee past Atlanta by more than one-quarter, to 355.4 million gallons a day.  In reviewing the request, the corps found it would violate a 1946 Congressional document that authorized the federal government to build Lanier's Buford Dam. That document stated the Chattahoochee should flow at a minimum of 420 million gallons of water a day past Atlanta.  AJC_3/13/08

Florida Rep. Allen Boyd says feds will keep pressure on Georgia, Alabama and Florida to resume water-sharing talks

Boyd, D-North Florida, testified before the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment in Washington Tuesday, and said after the hearing “the federal government will keep pressure on the three states to renew tri-state negotiations.” He said the hearing served to get the issue raised to a higher level “and it is my hope that this will be the first of many more hearings and discussions on water supply planning in the Southeast.”

Boyd encouraged:

• The use of independent and local experts to determine water flows that the Apalachicola River and Bay need to maintain their productivity;

• Setting limits on water use with the Tri-State Basin – for example, capping the water use to ensure meeting the river flow requirements;

• Assessing the water conservation potential among all users in the basin – agricultural, municipal and industrial – and determining the most cost-effective
investments and who will pay for them;

• Embodying these agreements in a Tri-State Compact with strong enforcement mechanisms. Jackson County Floridan_ 3/13/08

Southeast U.S. water study proposed

The Army Corps of Engineers would conduct a water management study for the Southeast under a bill introduced Tuesday by Rep. John Lewis in hopes of quelling the water war among Alabama, Georgia and Florida. “Water transcends state borders and political boundaries,” said Lewis, D-Ga., at a House subcommittee hearing on water issues. “We need to stop trying to find winners and losers and do what is right — and what is necessary — to work together." Lewis’ bill would direct the Army Corps and other agencies to conduct a study of the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (ACT) basin, Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa River basin and Savannah River basin in hopes of finding a reasonable and scientific solution to water usage. Gannett News Service/Pensacola News Journal_ 3/11/08

And the fight goes on .... Robert Hunter, commissioner of Atlanta's department of watershed management, said the problem is not a lack of water, but how it is being managed by the Army Corps of Engineers and other agencies. "First of all, the Corps needs to stop over-releasing," he said. Others said downstream users are the ones who need relief. Kevin Begos, who heads a task force representing oystermen and the seafood industry in Franklin County, Fla., said low river flows into Florida's Apalachicola Bay have cut shrimp and oyster harvests to levels not seen in decades. Even some fellow Georgians accused metro Atlanta of expecting too much. "I will not let downstream Georgia communities ... have their needs trampled without due consideration in a stampede to protect unrestricted and unplanned growth in water use of the northern part of the state," Rep. Sanford Bishop, a Democrat who represents a southwestern Georgia district, said in a written statement. AP/examiner.com_ 3/11/08

Georgia Rep. John Lewis 'disappointed' governors skipped water hearing

Lewis lashed out at Gov. Sonny Perdue and his Alabama and Florida counterparts Tuesday for failing to show up at a congressional hearing into the 40-year dispute among the states over shared water supplies. Lewis, an Atlanta Democrat, said he'll introduce legislation that would order another Army Corps of Engineers study of water sources already stressed by a record drought but said no end is in sight for a permanent final agreement without a deeper commitment by the governors. "I'm very disappointed in the governors of these three states who declined our invitation to be here," said Lewis, who as the dean of the Georgia congressional delegation is leading the fight for water in Washington. Atlanta Journal-Constitution_ 3/11/08

Can reservoirs protect Georgia from drought?

With the General Assembly three-quarters of the way through this year's session, one clear answer has emerged on how the state plans to deal with north Georgia's historic drought: Build more reservoirs. House Bill 1226 would create a state division for the sole purpose of building new ones and expanding old ones, while Senate Bill 342 would create a funding mechanism for the state to pay up to 40 percent of the costs. A dozen new water supply reservoirs are already underway in Georgia, seven of them in metro Atlanta. Since 2000, another eight reservoirs in the metro region have gotten green lights from state and federal governments. Most have been built. Including Hickory Log Creek, their total capacity is more than 200 million gallons of water a day, according to state data. That's enough water to supply the one million residents of the city of Atlanta and Fulton County. But is it enough to drought-proof the metro region, with room to grow? No one knows for sure. That's what metro Atlanta's water planning district is working on this year, as it updates its 2003 water plan. The statewide water plan, approved early in the legislative session, is expected to answer the same question for the rest of the state by 2011. Environmentalists argue for waiting on those plans before bottling up any more rivers and destroying wetlands. Atlanta Journal-Constitution_ 3/10/08

Alabama, Florida, Georgia water war to heat up with federal intervention

Lawyers for Georgia, Florida and Alabama are gearing up again for battle, now that tri-state water negotiations have collapsed and the federal government says it will decide how to dole out water rights in the region. At least eight lawsuits are pending involving the two-decade water feud, and state officials said they expect heavy activity in those cases this year. At the same time, the Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will soon issue a short-term water operations plan — a move that could set off a fresh wave of legal maneuvering. The short-term plan would replace an existing arrangement — set to expire June 1 — that allows Georgia to hold back more water in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river basin that runs along the Alabama-Georgia border. The corps also has begun rewriting control manuals that guide long-term water allocations in the river systems. Because revising the manuals could take several years, action in the courts could supersede the corps' decisions. The fundamental issue in the cases is whether the corps is already misappropriating water. AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution_ 3/9/08

What's next for Georgia, Florida, Alabama water sharing

A source has told The (Gainesville, Fla.) Times that the primary issue continues to be storage capacity in Lake Lanier and the amount of water sent downstream from Lanier. A statement from Alabama Gov. Bob Riley, also indicated the center of the dispute. "(Georgia) Gov. (Sonny) Perdue’s recent comment that Georgia’s water needs are more critical than those of Alabama and Florida underscores the difficulty in reaching an agreement," Riley said. "Until Georgia accepts that the water needs of its people are no more important than the water needs of people in Alabama and Florida, we will never be able to conclude an agreement. The notion that Alabama and Florida should pay for Atlanta’s ever-increasing water needs is not something that Alabama will ever accept." At present two things are happening. First, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will begin work on an interim operating agreement for the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river system. The governors and federal officials reached terms for an interim agreement following a November meeting in Washington. That agreement, which reduced water flow into the Apalachicola River, will expire June 1. Also pending before the corps is a request from Georgia to reduce the flow of water out of Lake Lanier. At the same time, the dispute between the states will likely return to federal court. There are eight lawsuits in four federal courts regarding water issues between Georgia, Florida and Alabama. Gainesville Times_ 3/4/08

Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue remains optimistic about water talks

Although White House-brokered negotiations failed to produce a resolution in the tri-state water wars, Governor Perdue remains optimistic. Perdue Monday told Channel 2 Action News he's convinced that if he and the governors of Alabama and Florida sit down long enough they can come up with a plan that's in the best interest of all the states. Access North Georgia_ 3/4/08

Feds say Alabama, Florida, Georgia water negotiations have failed

Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne says White House-brokered negotiations involving Alabama, Florida and Georgia have failed to produce a water-sharing deal. In lieu of such an agreement, federal agencies will move forward with developing their own solution, Kempthorne wrote the three governors. Kempthorne said the talks, which began last fall, yielded more progress in three months than at any time during the last 18 years. Kempthorne said it was "unfortunate" the states will move forward with ongoing litigation while the federal agencies proceed. The three states have been feuding for nearly two decades over water rights in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint and the Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa river basins. AP/CBS_ 3/1/08

Text of Kempthorne's letter.

  • Initial reaction: Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue's spokesman, Bert Brantley, said in a phone interview Saturday that federal intervention was not the governor's preferred outcome, and that Perdue wanted to "get to the finish line" with the other states on their own. "We certainly would have preferred to reach an agreement with our neighboring states," Brantley said. "We were hopeful that we could actually get to an agreement." Florida and Alabama did not have much to say on Saturday. Erin Isaac, a spokeswoman for Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, declined to comment on the federal government's move, saying that she had not seen Kempthorne's letter, nor had she talked to Crist about it. Todd Stacy, a spokesman for Alabama Gov. Bob Riley, also declined to comment. Atlanta Journal-Constitution_ 3/1/08

 

February, 2008

Alabama, Florida and Georgia may not agree on water-sharing

Negotiations between Florida, Alabama and Georgia appear to be on the verge of collapsing without resolving deeply entrenched disputes over the imperiled Apalachicola River and Atlanta's shrinking supply of drinking water. Aiming to end a water war of nearly two decades, talks started in December at a summit in Tallahassee convened by Florida Gov. Charlie Crist. The three states missed a Feb. 15 deadline they had set for themselves, but officials insisted they could come up with an agreement by Saturday. Word that discussions were failing came Tuesday but with few specifics about why. "At this time, there are no more plans for additional negotiations," said Todd Stacy, spokesman for Alabama Gov. Bob Riley. Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue has said during the past week that he's confident the states will find a way to share water. But his outlook changed Tuesday. "He said today that his optimism has waned," spokesman Bert Brantley said. "He was getting feedback from negotiators, and he wasn't as optimistic as he had been." Brantley would not say what specific issues derailed negotiators. "I think it's the same sticking point as always," the spokesman said. "We're talking about how to share a resource." Comments from the neighboring governors caught Florida's team by surprise. "We think that we can continue to move forward," said Sarah Williams, spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. "There's been a lot of productive dialogue." Orlando Sentinel_ 2/27/08

Tennessee mayor delivers truckload of water to parched Georgia's capitol

Drought-parched Georgia got a "cool wet kiss of friendship" Wednesday from neighbouring Chattanooga, Tenn. in the form of a truckload of bottled water delivered to legislators at the state capitol. Dressed in frontier buckskins and a Davy Crockett hat, an aide to Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield ambled into Georgia's statehouse to hand out 2,000 bottles to curious legislators trying to deal with a historic drought. Both chambers of the Georgia legislature passed a resolution last week asserting that a flawed 1818 survey mistakenly placed Georgia's northern line just short of the Tennessee River. Its flow is about 15 times greater than the Chattahoochee, on which Atlanta depends for water. Tennessee hasn't taken kindly to Georgia's bid; legislators there have reacted with a mix of scorn and humour. The water stunt Wednesday was firmly in the spirit of the latter. "It's just a friendly gesture, poking fun at the idea," said Littlefield aide Matt Lea. "But we feel it's a serious issue and there are more serious ways to deal with the problem, like controlling urban sprawl." The gift was complete with a lighthearted resolution questioning the "irrational and outrageous" actions of Georgia legislators and declaring Wednesday Chattanooga's first "Give our Georgia Friends a Drink Day." AP/CNews_ 2/27/08

Georgia governor pessimistic about resolution to water feud

Hopes that Georgia, Florida and Alabama will settle a two-decade water dispute faded further Tuesday as Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue accused his counterparts of lacking resolve in the negotiations because, he said, their water problems aren't as critical as Georgia's. Gov. Bob Riley of Alabama responded that Perdue's comments show why talks among the states are failing. Both governors expressed pessimism that a deal can be reached. Nonetheless, a spokesman for Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne -- called in by President Bush to mediate the dispute -- said he has not given up, and Florida Gov. Charlie Crist said he also remained "hopeful." AP/Orlando Sentinel_ 2/26/08

Chattanooga, Tennessee sending truck load of water to Atlanta for 'Give Our Georgia Friends a Drink Day'

The city of Chattanooga, facing a possible Georgia land grab as part of an effort to get access to the Tennessee River, is sending a truck load of bottled water to Atlanta. Mayor Ron Littlefield officially proclaimed Feb. 27, 2008,  as "Give our Georgia Friends a Drink Day." The proclamation comes as a result of the Georgia Legislature passing a joint resolution that seeks to pursue reestablishing the boundary between Georgia and Tennessee to gain access to more water. The truck load of bottled water along with the proclamation will be delivered to the Georgia Legislature Wednesday morning. "Along with this water, we want to send Georgia legislators a message that focusing on conservation efforts would be much more productive than an ill-conceived land and water grab," said the mayor. The Chattanoogan_ 2/26/08

Georgia politicians may cool rhetoric on Tennessee border fight to avoid battle over Tennessee Valley Authority nominee

If the border volume gets too loud, either one of Tennessee’s two senators could put a hold on Georgia’s only representation on the TVA board. Atlanta Journal-Constitution Political Insider_ 2/25/08

 

Georgia's border water war with Tennessee gets serious

The Tennessee River has plenty of water. And the state of Georgia has plenty of legal ammunition to move the state line and get it. These more or less are the marching orders set forth in the "Confidential Water Policy Memorandum." Released Friday, the document ratchets up the talk of border war between Georgia and Tennessee. The 18-page memorandum — drawn up in recent months by lawyers, politicians and water engineers — was the basis of resolutions in the Georgia state legislature this week to move the Tennessee line a mile north to the 35th parallel. That would put part of the Tennessee River in Georgia and possibly set in motion the building of a water treatment plant, pumping stations and a 100-plus-mile pipeline to move as much as 500 million gallons of water a day to north Georgia and Atlanta. On Friday, Tennessee House Speaker Gary Odom acknowledged that the dispute — so far mostly banter and whimsy — is starting to draw real fire and ire. Brad Carver, the Atlanta lawyer who helped draw up the memorandum, said in an e-mail Friday that many particulars for moving the water were unknown. "Our focus right now is getting the border re-surveyed and asserting our historic riparian rights in the Tennessee River," he said. The authors of the document released Friday assert Atlanta's water needs are not excessive, and that interbasin transfers — taking water from one basin and moving it to another — are not unusual, having been done by other major American cities including New York, Chicago, Miami, Dallas and Houston. Atlanta Journal-Constitution_ 2/23/08

Alabama Gov. Bob Riley doubts three-state water talks will succeed, says courts offer his state best hope

Riley on Thursday said moving forward with a federal lawsuit offers Alabama a better chance of resolving a long-standing water dispute with Georgia than ongoing negotiations with the governors of Georgia and Florida. "We see no reason not to aggressively pursue legal options at this point," Riley said in an interview. "Georgia needs to realize that the days of no-cost water growth for Atlanta are over. Alabama is simply unwilling to pay the bill for Atlanta's uncontrolled growth." Until now, Alabama officials have tried to keep the lawsuit, which is before U.S. District Judge Karon Bowdre in Birmingham, on a back burner as Riley tried to negotiate a broad water-sharing plan with Florida Gov. Charlie Crist and Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue. However, Riley said, "We hope that this court now will give us a definitive ruling as quickly as possible." The governor said he expects attorneys for the state to relay that view to Bowdre at a status conference on the lawsuit, which is scheduled this afternoon. State officials say they hope the lawsuit that Alabama filed in 1990 against the Army Corps of Engineers will cause the corps to release more water for the Coosa River from Allatoona Lake, a corps reservoir in north Georgia, and limit water withdrawals from the lake by metro Atlanta. The Coosa River runs into Alabama and joins with the Tallapoosa River to form the Alabama River. U.S. Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne for months has urged Riley, Crist and Perdue to negotiate a fair water-use plan for the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (ACF) river basin and the Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa (ACT) river basin. Riley said tri-state talks on the ACF river basin have been extended to March 1. Talks on the ACT basin were extended until yesterday, with no deal reached. Riley said he held little hope that talks with Perdue and Crist would soon produce a water-sharing agreement for the ACT basin. Birmingham News/Al.com_ 2/22/08


Tennessee says no water talks with Georgia

The center of the conflict is the 200 year old Tennessee-Georgia border which some lawmakers in the peach State would like to move a mile north. Tennessee lawmakers, unsure of Georgia's intentions, have decided to draft a resolution putting the state on record as opposing any discussion of changing its southern border. This follows by a few days a move in Atlanta seeking to begin formal talks to that end. State Rep. Vince Dean of East Ridge says he's taking the challenge seriously. WDEF News 12_ 2/22/08

Georgia's water-sharing negotiations done in secret
There's a reason for the near total silence surrounding ongoing water-sharing talks among Georgia, Alabama and Florida.  On Jan. 9, the states signed a confidentiality agreement along with several federal representatives and two private electric utilities, Georgia Power and Alabama Power.  Kevin Begos, a representative of Florida's seafood industry, asked his state's Commission on Open Government to investigate.  "Is it easier to perhaps negotiate behind closed doors, without the public being involved? Maybe... but that's not how our government works," Begos said.  From 1998 to 2003, the three states tried to work out a water-sharing deal over the Chattahoochee River and Lake Lanier under a Congressionally authorized compact that required meetings to occur in public.  This time, Begos said the workers he represents as part of the Franklin County Oyster & Seafood Task Force feel shut out.  "All [the states are] doing is putting out this spin how they're solving everything," Begos said. "The thing that worries us. . . is community groups don't have the right to review the final agreement."  Bert Brantley, a spokesman for Gov. Sonny Perdue, said the negotiations, which the White House is facilitating, need to be confidential to protect the states from litigation.  "If you don't have one of these agreements in place, the sides might be hesitant to lay out all their cards on the table," he said.  Brantley said the power companies were included in the talks as technical advisors, not as negotiators. The companies have hydropower dams and power plants on the Chattahoochee which use billions of gallons of water.  Atlanta Journal Constitution_2/20/08

Alabama officials to develop state's first water management plan

After a record drought that has been called the worst in some parts of Alabama in 100 years, legislators will attempt to develop a plan to manage the state's rivers and other water resources. State Sen. Kim Benefield, D-Woodland, said Tuesday she would introduce a resolution in the Senate to create the Permanent Joint Legislative Committee on Water Policy and Management. The committee would consist of members of the House and Senate and would present its initial report to the Legislature by the 15th meeting day of the 2009 regular session. Rep. Greg Canfield, R-Vestavia Hills, said he would handle the resolution in the House. The Georgia Legislature earlier this month passed that state's first statewide water plan and it has been signed by Gov. Sonny Perdue. At a Statehouse news conference Tuesday, Benefield said the drought has shown that water resources can't be taken for granted, even in Alabama with its extensive networks of rivers and lakes. AP_ 2/19/08

Governors of Georgia, Florida and Alabama to continue water negotiations

Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne said Friday the governors of Alabama, Florida and Georgia would continue water-sharing negotiations for "at least a week" after they missed a Friday deadline for settling their long-standing dispute. The governors did not offer specifics on their outstanding differences, but Gov. Sonny Perdue of Georgia said the states might be able to broker a deal by March 1. Perdue and Gov. Charlie Crist of Florida said they were encouraged by the progress so far, while Alabama Gov. Bob Riley issued a brief statement expressing disappointment that the governors had not met their deadline. AP_ 2/15/08

  • The governors also are discussing water issues along the Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa River basin that carries water from north Georgia and into Alabama. "I am disappointed that the three states were not able to reach a long-term solution for either of the two river basins by today," said Alabama Gov. Bob Riley. "Alabama has decided to go the extra mile and agree to a brief extension of the negotiating period in the hope that a breakthrough will occur." Montgomery Advertiser_ 2/16/08

Georgia, Florida and Alabama miss White House deadline to settle water war

Georgia, Alabama and Florida are still squabbling over rights to Lake Lanier and the Chattahoochee River, despite attempts to meet a Bush administration-imposed deadline to come to a long-term agreement by Friday. The governors dispatched their staffs to three face-to-face meetings this year, including a two-day meeting this week in Prattville, Ala., near Montgomery. Bert Brantley, a spokesman for Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, would not say how close the sides are to a water-sharing agreement. The three states have been fighting over their common waters for 18 years. Sarah Williams, spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, said the sides are still "working together, still making progress." She said negotiators are trying to schedule another meeting. Alabama officials declined to comment. The Feb. 15 deadline was set on Nov. 1, when the three governors met in Washington with U.S. Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne. Kempthorne said he would only set a new deadline if the sides are close to an agreement. Atlanta Journal-Constitution_ 2/14/08

  • Officials said the states have made progress in recent months but instead of announcing a long-term pact on Friday as planned, they will offer more of a status report. The dispute centers on how much water the Army Corps of Engineers holds back in federal reservoirs near the head of two river basins in north Georgia that flow south into Florida and Alabama. AP/Minneapolis Star-Tribune_ 2/14/08
  • Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Michael Sole said today "I'm optimistic we will find a solution and end the sixteen year debate and be able to move forward in a productive way on water management throughtout the basin." He declined to discuss issues raised in the talks because he said there is a confidentiality agreement among the states. Tallahassee Democrat_ 2/14/08
  • Editorial: The sticking point was a 2003 "secret" deal between Georgia and the U.S. Corps of Engineers that would have allowed metro Atlanta to draw out approximately 23 percent of the water in Lake Lanier, a federal reservoir. With this agreement, Georgia began its long-range plans for the allocation of what it believed was its water resources. Anniston, Alabama, Star_ 2/14/08

Request by Georgia state officials could mean less water for metro Atlanta

Georgia wants the Corps of Engineers to further reduce the amount of water flowing out of Lake Lanier for metro Atlanta's needs, a request that's alarmed the city of Atlanta, downstream communities and environmentalists. In a letter sent this week, state Environmental Protection Division Director Carol Couch asked the corps to keep an additional 130 million gallons of water a day in the federal reservoir, "in order to preserve valuable storage in Lake Lanier for future use during this exceptional drought." Couch has requested the lower flows through April 30. After that, water demands increase and water quality begins to worsen as temperature rise. Corps spokeswoman Lisa Coghlan said Thursday the federal agency is still evaluating the request. Atlanta Journal-Constitution_ 2/14/08

Georgia officials ease water restrictions

Swimming pools can be filled and hand watering of landscaping can begin immediately in 61 drought-stricken north Georgia counties, the director of the Environmental Protection Division said Tuesday. The exemptions to water restrictions imposed last year must be approved by the local water provider, such as a local government or water utility, EPD director Carol A. Couch said. Hand watering -- one person with one garden hose -- must be done between midnight and 10 a.m. on designated days based on odd-numbered and even-numbered addresses for no more than 25 minutes. A 10 percent reduction in water consumption ordered by Gov. Sonny Perdue last year still be achieved under the exemptions, officials said. Couch said that starting April 1, monthly water use in the 61-county drought area would be compared to April-September average monthly water use to ensure the conservation goals are met. Ap/Yahoo_ 2/13/08

Georgia's DeKalb County considers drinking recycled sewage

As the record drought continues, officials across metro Atlanta are looking for more water sources. One possibility in DeKalb is a sewage re-use plant on the South River. It would treat effluent the county dumps there, and inject it into the drinking water system. Sewage re-use has occurred for years in parched places. Treated wastewater usually gets used for agriculture, industry and other non-potable purposes, but some communities use it indirectly for drinking water. Orange County, Calif., for instance, has poured treated wastewater into the aquifers that supply its water since the 1970s, and recently expanded capacity, opening one of the world's largest re-use plants. DeKalb officials say they will explore a variety of options, even direct potable re-use, which critics derisively refer to as "toilet to tap." "We can treat the water to drinking water quality and put it straight into the water pipes," said Francis Kung'u, who runs DeKalb's water system. He will ask the County Commission to pay for a feasibility study this month, and said a re-use plant could be operational in five years. Atlanta Journal-Constitution_ 2/12/08

Old lakes could offer drought-stricken Georgia a new water supply

The federal government built 357 dams starting in the 1950s to protect agricultural lands from floods and create jobs for mostly rural communities in North Georgia. Since many of the areas were sparsely populated, only 19 of the dams were equipped to provide drinking water. But some Georgia lawmakers are rethinking the dams in the midst of a severe drought that has forced state officials to impose sweeping water restrictions. Now there's a Senate proposal to allow state dollars to be used to renovate and deepen these lakes so they can be tapped for drinking water. It's rushing through the Capitol like a swift mountain stream, just as state budget writers are considering doling out $70 million on a splurge to build new reservoirs. AP/MyFoxAtlanta_ 2/10/08

Mapmaker's border error raises new front in Georgia's water war

In 1818, a University of Georgia mathematician named James Camak established the boundary between Georgia and Tennessee. He screwed up. Georgia, especially during times of drought, has paid the price ever since. Today, Georgia legislators masquerading as mapmakers hope to fix Camak's error. They introduced resolutions last week to move the state line 1.1 miles northward — smack into the middle of the bountiful Tennessee River. Billions of gallons of water could then flow unimpeded to parched metro Atlanta. Tennesseeans scoffed at the legislation, saying Georgia's irresponsible growth prompts the water grab. Some legal scholars and water-rights experts question Georgia's broadside. The border may have been inaccurately drawn, they say, but it has been accepted for generations. Others say portions of Georgia's case hold water. Congress established the state of Tennessee in 1796 and designated its southern boundary, and Georgia's northern one, as the 35th parallel. Resolutions in the Georgia legislature request that Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue and Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen fix the border, and that boundary commissions from both states re-survey the line. And they want it done by January. If the two states cannot resolve the dispute, the courts, and possibly Congress, will be beseeched. Atlanta Journal-Constitution_ 2/10/08

Northwest Georgia water officials to meet with state Environment Protection Division Feb. 25

Gov. Sonny Perdue’s announcement Wednesday that he is easing water-use restrictions is likely to take center stage, said Floyd County Commission Chairman Jerry Jennings, who heads the 15-county Northwest Georgia Regional Water Resources Partnership. “I expect there will be questions about the dual message that we must continue to reduce consumption but, by the way, you can water your plants and fill your swimming pools,” Jennings said. It is up to the local utilities to decide if they will adopt the allowed exemptions, but, if they do, they will still be required to meet the state-mandated 10-percent reduction in the amount of water they are allowed to withdraw. “What the governor has done is put the burden on the systems,” said Leigh Ross, director of the Rome Water and Sewer Department. Neither the city of Rome nor Floyd County met its reduction target goal for January. Floyd County passed in November, the first month for the new limits, but Rome failed. In December, the city passed, and the county failed. The state has yet to set penalties for providers that don’t meet the target, which was based on 2006-2007 winter usage. Beginning April 1, the required savings will be based on the average monthly use between April and September 2007 — which includes the peak months of May and August. Rome News-Tribune_ 2/8/08

Several Georgia cities wary about letting water flow
Local officials' reaction to loosening of state water restrictions was as varied as the colors of a rainbow.  Some city and county leaders want to mull it over before they decide whether to follow the state's lead. Others say if it's good enough for Gov. Sonny Perdue, it's good enough for them. And still others say they're being caught in the middle of conflicting demands.  Georgia Gov. Perdue on Wednesday softened state outdoor water use restrictions, allowing residents to fill pools and hand-water established plants and use sprinklers on new landscaping. But he is leaving the final say to local governments, which still must meet a state requirement to reduce water consumption by 10 percent.  The severe watering restrictions for the northern third of the state have been in place since Sept. 28.  AJC_2/8/08

Georgia loses major water ruling on rights to Lake Lanier

A federal appeals court has thrown out an agreement that Georgia reached with the Army Corps of Engineers for water rights to Lake Lanier, handing Alabama and Florida a major victory in the states' years-long water wars. The agreement, which would give Georgia about a quarter of the lake's capacity over the coming decades for drinking water, is the foundation of Georgia's long-term plans. Alabama and Florida have challenged the pact reached in 2003, arguing that the withdrawals would dry up river flows into their states that support smaller municipalities, power plants, commercial fisheries and industrial users like paper mills. Georgia currently uses about 10 to 15 percent of the capacity in Lake Lanier, a huge federal reservoir outside Atlanta initially built for hydropower. AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution_ 2/5/08

  • Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue's response: Gov. Sonny Perdue's spokesman, Bert Brantley, said the ruling does not change the state's long-term goal to reach a water-sharing agreement with Alabama and Florida. The three governors, with help from the Bush administration, are shooting for a Feb. 15 deadline to reach a compromise. Atlanta Journal-Constitution_ 2/5/08
  • Alabama Gov. Bob Riley: ``This is the most consequential legal ruling in the 18-year history of the water war, and one of the most important in the history of the State of Alabama." AP/Sun-Sentinel_ 2/5/08

Hydrologists say Georgia drought danger continues

South Georgia creeks and streams are at their highest levels since last winter. But South Georgia got about 2 to 3 inches less rainfall in January than normal, and the Floridan Aquifer is still ten feet below it's normal level for this time of the year. Hydrologists say that is troubling, because December through March are the rainy months when we will get that recharge. Georgia's climatologist has forecast another dry spring and summer. WALB-10 2/4/08

Alabama, Florida Georgia: Deadline on water war is doable

A mid-February deadline to solve the 18-year water war among Georgia, Alabama and Florida is still viable, officials from all three states say. "Our hope is still to have a plan by Feb. 15," said Florida Department of Environmental Protection spokeswoman Sarah Williams. But even if all the issues aren't resolved in less than two weeks, Todd Stacy, a spokesman for Alabama Gov. Bob Riley, said he expects at least "something of a compromise." Georgia officials were less talkative. Bert Brantley, a spokesman for Gov. Sonny Perdue, said the deadline is still doable. Environmental Protection Division Director Carol Couch would only confirm that staffers from the three states and federal representatives have met twice in January, once in West Virginia and once in Atlanta. Williams, from Florida, said state officials were trying to schedule another meeting this week. None of them would disclose specific information about any of the closed-door sessions. The hot issue has been how much water to send downstream to Florida from Georgia's Lake Lanier at a time when metro Atlanta and North Georgia are in a record-setting drought. The federal reservoir northeast of Atlanta supplies water to more than 3 million metro Atlantans. Atlanta Journal-Constitution_ 2/3/08

January, 2008

Georgia runs dry as clout in Congress runs low

Atlanta and other drought-stricken Georgia cities miss out on millions of federal dollars to repair leaky water infrastructure because the state's congressional delegation lacks clout on key funding committees in Washington. In the $555 billion spending bill that President Bush signed last month, Georgia received just $1.6 million in federal "earmarks" from the Environmental Protection Agency fund that helps local governments improve sewer systems and replace aging water pipes. An analysis shows that 33 states received more funding, including far smaller ones such as West Virginia, Indiana and Kentucky. Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin said state leaders simply did not make water infrastructure a priority until the recent drought. Atlanta and other local water systems estimate that they lose 10 percent to 20 percent of treated water due to leaky infrastructure. AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution_ 1/28/08

Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue eliminates budget for Albany State University's water planning center

The 2009 budget submitted to lawmakers last week by Gov. Sonny Perdue would eliminate all state funds for the Georgia Water Policy and Planning Center at Albany State University, representing a loss of $360,000. While the center gets some federal funding, it probably will be forced to shut down unless the Legislature restores the state money, said Doug Wilson, the center’s executive director. Perdue first moved against the center in the summer of 2005 when the state launched an audit against both the center and the Flint River Regional Council, a nonprofit group that conducts research on agricultural water use in Southwest Georgia. The audit, released that December, charged the two agencies with improper spending of tax money on travel and entertainment involving thousands of dollars in expenditures for lodging, food and parties. Marshall Guest, a spokesman for the governor, noted that the new plan is statewide in scope. He said Perdue wants to focus the state government’s resources on statewide water planning. Albany Herald_ 1/25/08

Alabama still has no water management plan in place

There's good news and bad news on the ongoing drought in Alabama. Experts say if winter and spring rainfall totals are close to normal, Alabama's lakes should rise to near normal levels by summer. But Montgomery Water Works Director Buddy Morgan pointed out in a speech Wednesday that the state has yet to draft a comprehensive water management plant. Morgan told a group of young republicans the plan is crucial in managing future water shortages. Morgan says he's not optimistic that state politicians will get the job done. Instead, he says it may take water works officials on the local level coming together and submitting their own plan to the state. In recent years, Alabama, Georgia and Florida have battled over how to share water between the states. The so-called water war was heightened in light of the ongoing drought. The states have yet to come up with an official water sharing agreement.  WSFA-TV_ 1/23/08

Georgia Legislature quickly adopts state water plan

Even the fractious Georgia Legislature can agree on one thing: The state needs its first water management plan. On Friday, the House and Senate united to approve the first outline of how the resource should be managed. The proposal's swift move through the Legislature is evidence of its importance to lawmakers in Georgia, which still suffers from a severe drought despite recent rainfall. The drought forced state leaders to restrict water usage, and prompted Gov. Sonny Perdue to hold a public prayer for rain. Three years in the making, the water plan must be signed by Perdue before it takes effect. The plan calls for three years of assessments to measure Georgia's water supply and demand. Perdue's proposed budget includes $11 million to pay for the tests. It also creates regional water councils to draft water plans for each area. The plan has faced criticism from environmentalists and others who say the council regions should be based on river basin boundaries instead of political ones. And some rural politicians worry it needs more safeguards to block Atlanta from grabbing a bigger share of the state's water. AP/Houston Chronicle_ 1/18/08

Apalachicola, Florida declares its own water war with Georgia and Alabama

The city on Wednesday sued the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in federal court in Tallahassee to block any future reductions in flow down the Chattahoochee, Flint and Apalachicola rivers. This comes after Apalachicola commissioners signaled in November their intent to enter the so-called “Water Wars” between Florida, Georgia and Alabama and the amount of water each state is entitled. The 97-page brief filed by City Attorney Pat Floyd asks Chief Judge Robert Hinkle of the U.S. Northern District to declare unlawful a series of flow reductions the Corps has taken in recent months to respond to drought conditions plaguing the Southeast, and to prohibit them from enacting further reductions. Apalachicola is the first Florida city to turn to the courts, although both Columbus and Gainesville, Ga., have been parties to other lawsuits challenging the Corps’ management of water from Lake Lanier, outside Atlanta, all the way south to Jim Woodruff Dam, which impounds Lake Seminole on the Georgia-Florida border. News Herald_ 1/16/08

Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue outlines new water proposal in Augusta

Gov. Sonny Perdue assured eastern Georgia officials Wednesday that the state's new water plan won't allow Atlanta to raid the Savannah River basin. "Look closely, and read my lips," Perdue said in response to a question from the audience at Daniel Field in Augusta. "You have nothing to fear." Perdue made his comments during a tour of Georgia with Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and House Majority Leader Jerry Keen to discuss their priorities for the 2008 legislative session. The new water policy, which lays the groundwork for water planning across Georgia, was approved Tuesday by a panel in Atlanta and now must be approved by the Georgia General Assembly, which cranks up its regular legislative session Monday. Savannah Morning News_ 1/10/08

Georgia Water Council sets up statewide water sharing plan for Legislature to consider

The Georgia Water Council on Tuesday approved the framework for a statewide water plan to send to the General Assembly next week. If the Legislature adopts the council plan, the proposal will set in motion three more years of planning to determine how to share common waters among 11 districts. The estimated cost: $36.5 million to gather data and create the regional plans. Council members, consisting of seven state agency heads and three citizen appointees, approved the plan unanimously. Georgia, like many other states, has never had a state plan to divide water from rivers, lakes and underground aquifers. But Tuesday's vote was just the first step toward that end. The 25 members of each regional water council, who will divvy up the water, will be appointed by the governor, lieutenant governor and speaker of the House of Representatives. About one-third of the seats will be set aside for local elected leaders. In public comments before the vote, members of the business community expressed their support through the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, the Georgia Agribusiness Council and the Georgia Poultry Federation. The Association of County Commissioners of Georgia also supports the plan. Dissenters were representatives from Columbus and LaGrange, communities that sit downstream from metro Atlanta, and environmental and civic groups joined under the Georgia Water Coalition. Atlanta Journal-Constitution_ 1/8/08

 

 

 
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