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Florida, Alabama, Georgia water sharing

 

Deadlines

1945-46

  • Congress authorizes construction of Lake Sidney Lanier in Georgia.

1990

  • Georgia, Florida and Alabama begin fighting over the right to water from Lake Lanier.

2007

  • Nov. 1: U.S. Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne meets in Washington with governors of Georgia, Florida and Alabama to start water sharing talks.
  • Dec. 17: Meeting of the governors of Florida, Georgia and Alabama in Talllahassee, Florida to discuss water sharing.

2008

  • Jan. 8: Georgia Water Policy Council deadline for sending the Legislature a proposed statewide water plan.
  • Jan. 14: Georgia General Assembly convenes and issues include state's first water use plan.
  • Mid-Jan: Staff from Georgia, Florida and Alabama to meet in Washington to hammer-out details of a water sharing agreement.
  • Feb. 15: Governors of Alabama, Florida and Georgia scheduled to announce whether they have reached a negotiated settlement to their 17-year water war. They missed this deadline. Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue said he thinks the three states may be able to broker a deal by March 1
  • Feb. 25: Northwest Georgia water officials to meet at the Forum with state Environmental Protection Division on water use restriction policies.
  • March 1: Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne says the talks have failed. Feds will develop their own solution for the three states to share water. Text of Kempthorne's letter. Corps of Engineers begins rewriting interim agreement. The new Corps agreement for water sharing among the three states would replace the existing temporary agreement that is set to expire June 1.
  • March: Corps of Engineers begins three-year project to rewrite the manual for water use in the Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa River Basin.
  • April 15: Corps of Engineers announces new water sharing plan that allows greater storage in upstream lakes and reservoirs but may harm threatened species in Florida. download the plan
  • June 1: Interim agreement on flow levels set to expire if no settlement reached before then. No agreement was reached. April interim plan is in use.
  • Summer 2008: Corps of Engineers South Atlantic Region Commander Brig. Gen. Joseph Schroedel will convene a 16-state workshop to discuss creation of a water council to solve the southeast U.S. water sharing issues.

  • September-October 2008: Corps of Engineers holds public hearings in Georgia and Alabama on rewriting the manual for water sharing. Public comment may be sent to the Corps through Oct. 20, 2008 at comments@act-wcm.com and for more information on the Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa River basin manual project visit www.act-wcm.com  

  • October 2008: Corps of Engineers to hold five public meetings on use of the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee Flint River basin.  

2009

  • January 2009: U.S. Supreme Court refuses to hear Georgia's appeal of a lower court ruling that invalidated a 2003 agreement between Georgia and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The agreement let metro Atlanta increase its water withdrawals from Lake Lanier.

  • February 11, 2009: Georgia governor, lieutenant governor and House speaker appoint 300 farmers, government officials, businessmen and others to 10 regional councils to allocate water from the state's rivers, lakes and aquifers. Council members and regional water maps

  • Spring-summer, 2009: Senior U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson in Jacksonville, Fla. expected to rule on water withdrawals from Lake Lanier.
  • May 27-28, 2009: U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar visits Georgia and Florida and says he won't force Alabama, Georgia and Florida to negotiate a settlement of their 20-year water sharing fight, but he's willing to help negotiations.
  • May 28, 2009: Florida Gov. Charlie Crist sends a letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar saying it is "imperative" to find a long-term solution to the Florida, Georgia, Alabama water sharing dispute. Download a pdf of Crist's letter to Salazar
  • July 17, 2009: U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson rules Atlanta has three years to obtain Congressional approval to keep using Lake Lanier for drinking water. In the days following the ruling, Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue says he will appeal the decision but also is open to negotiations with Florida and Alabama. Download pdf of the 97-page decision

2010

  • January 20, 2010: Three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rules Georgia may appeal Senior Judge Paul Magnuson's ruling that declared metro Atlanta cannot tap into Lake Lanier to supply most of its water needs.

 

Water Maps, Organizations and Other Resources

 

News

 

 

Georgia Gov. Sony Perdue backs state water conservation law and study of new Atlanta reservoirs

Gov. Sonny Perdue announced this morning that he is backing legislation packed with water conservation measures and a study of building new reservoirs as the Atlanta region faces the prospect of losing Lake Lanier as its main source of drinking water. The legislation would force water utilities to detect leaks, require the home building industry to use fixtures that rely on less water and set standards for measuring water use for each unit in apartment buildings. The bill would also make it easier for communities that conserve water to obtain state grants and lower interest loans. And it would set up a study committee to consider building new reservoirs or expanding existing ones. Called the Georgia Water Stewardship Act, the bill stems from recommendations the governor’s Water Contingency Task Force announced late last year. Perdue formed the panel after a federal judge issued a stinging ruling in July against Georgia in its water dispute with Alabama and Florida. Atlanta Journal-Constitution_ 2/3/10

Federal court allows Georgia to appeal water ruling

Georgia may appeal a momentous ruling that declared metro Atlanta cannot tap into Lake Lanier to supply most of its water needs, the federal appeals court in Atlanta has decided. In a unanimous decision issued Wednesday, a three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals handed Georgia one of its few legal victories of late in the high-stakes, tri-state water dispute. The court agreed with Georgia's legal team that one facet of Senior Judge Paul Magnuson's ruling in July was a "final judgment" that can be appealed. The 11th Circuit said that because all issues in the complex litigation are "inextricably intertwined," it will consider all findings made by Magnuson in his sweeping July 17 ruling. In July, Magnuson found it illegal for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to draw water from the massive federal reservoir formed by Buford Dam to meet the water needs for more than 3.5 million metro area residents. Atlanta Journal-Constitution_ 1/21/10

2009

Atlanta looks to Middle Georgia for water

The central Georgia city of  Macon could soon lose millions of gallons of drinking water a day, if Metro Atlanta has its way. When a judge ruled the Atlanta area had to stop using Lake Lanier for its drinking water, it left the city three years to find another source for 280 million gallons of water for Atlanta's daily use.  One plan calls for piping water out of Lake Jackson between Atlanta and Macon. Under the plan, using Lake Jackson could reduce water flowing to the Ocmulgee River. 41NBC.com_12/9/09

Georgia task force: 2012 too soon to find new drinking water

There are plenty of ways that Georgia can quench metro Atlanta's thirst if the city is cut off from its main reservoir. But most options are costly and, according to a Georgia water task force, none would provide enough water for the city to meet a federal judge's 2012 deadline. The task force created by Gov. Sonny Perdue found that it would take at least eight years and hundreds of millions of dollars to bring new reservoirs online. And aggressive new conservation measures would not alone make up for the 280 million gallons a day the Atlanta area would lose if its supply from Lake Lanier dries up, the group concluded. AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution_ 11/25/09

Georgia could lose up to $39 billion a year from water war

Georgia businesses could lost $26 billion to $39 billion a year if Atlanta is barred from using Lake Lanier as a drinking water source, according to information discussed at a state water task force meeting. The task force is supposed to find an alternate was source if Georgia, Alabama and Florida can't reach an agreement that allows the Atlanta area to continue drawing from the lake. Conservation measures discussed by the task force include gray water recycling, tapping into ground water, and desalinizing sea water from Georgia’s coast. Meanwhile, the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers has started to rewrite the manual it uses to control water flows in the Chattahoochee River Basin. Georgia Public Broadcasting_ 11/24/09

Dothan, Georgia joins grassroots Chattahoochee River stakeholders group

City commissioners voted Tuesday to become charter members of the newly organized Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (rivers) Stakeholders, a grassroots organization determined to seek a different path to solve the 20-year-old water conflict between Georgia, Alabama and Florida. Organizers believe the legal system and the politicians have failed to find a lasting solution. Membership in the group is free for the first year and annual dues will be $1,000 thereafter, or an amount as amended by the group. Twenty users of these rivers representing more than 60 stakeholders have joined the Albany, Ga.-based group thus far. The city is pursuing a permit to withdraw drinking water from the Chattahoochee as a short-term water shortage solution. Dothan Eagle_ 11/4/09

Governors of Georgia, Alabama and Florida told to get moving on water talks

Water-sharing was the subject of a meeting today between most of Georgia’s congressmen and Georgia U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson with some of their counterparts from Alabama and Florida. All in attendance agreed the governors of the three states need to begin water negotiations anew. A spokesman for Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue told Georgia Public Broadcasting that progress is being made on the framework for a meeting of the governors of the three states. But Perdue’s office stressed the need for Congress to work now on a parallel-track for new legislation to re-authorize the use of Lake Lanier. Georgia Public Broadcasting_ 10/28/09

Army Corps of Engineers begins releasing water from Lake Lanier in Georgia

WaterWebster.org Staff Report

Oct. 21, 2009

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has begun releasing water from Lake Sidney Lanier in anticipation of a wet winter following three years of drought.  Corps officials said in a news release Tuesday that it had returned to normal water control operations at the lake which supplies drinking water to metro Atlanta, but also was at the center of heated arguments over water rights between Georgia, Florida and Alabama.  “We have gone from operating in a drought situation to our normal operations for flood control,” said E. Patrick Robbins, Corps Public Affairs Officer. “All indications are that the Southeast will be in for a wetter than normal to normal winter weather pattern and it is important that the lakes in the system are prepared to handle the excess water.” The Corps will maintain the lake's winter level at 1,070 feet, the news release said. To go higher could damage lakeside property.

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Carol Couch resigns as head of Georgia Environmental Protection Division
With Georgia in a prolonged water war that could lead to Metro Atlanta’s primary water source being cut off in less than three years, the state’s Environmental Protection Division director resigned Monday. Carol Couch, who has led the organization for six years, submitted her resignation effective Oct. 26. She will join the faculty at the University of Georgia. No successor was immediately named. Ledger-Inquirer_ 10/20/09

Georgia's Lake Lanier full for first time since 2005

Lake Lanier, the reservoir that supplies drinking water to most of metro Atlanta, as well as Gainesville, reached — and surpassed — its full pool elevation of 1,071 feet above sea level Wednesday, drowning out any doubt that the recent historic drought has ended. Lake Lanier has not been recorded at its full pool elevation since September 2005. Between then and now, an extreme drought in North Georgia caused Lanier’s level to drop to record-breaking lows more than 20 feet below the lake’s full level. It fell to an all-time low of 1,050.79 feet in December 2007. Gainesville Times_ 10/14/09

Georgia water task force looks outside the Chattahoochee River basin

Gov. Sonny Perdue and a task force of business, government and environmental officials unveiled a new strategy Wednesday to circumvent downstream opposition and ensure Atlanta’s future access to the most precious of commodities. The task force is expected to investigate tapping rivers and reservoirs outside the Chattahoochee River basin. First up: Walton County’s proposed Hard Labor Creek regional reservoir, which dams the Apalachee River. By year’s end, the 80-member panel will recommend to Perdue a slew of legislative remedies, some quite costly, to bolster the region’s water supply and prospects for future growth and development. Atlanta Journal-Constitution_ 10/7/09

In regional water dispute, federal judge again rules against Georgia

The federal judge who ruled in July that metro Atlanta’s water supply withdraws from Lake Lanier were illegal, ruled against Georgia again Monday. Senior U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson refused Monday to agree that his order was a final judgment in the case and said it does not provide injunctive relief, which the State of Georgia and two other parties had claimed, an Associated Press story said. The State of Georgia, the Atlanta Regional Commission and the City of Atlanta joined together in seeking an appeal to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta. However, Magnuson issued a three-page order Monday, saying, “No injunctive relief was ordered or intended by the court’s July 17, 2009, order."Post-Searchlight_ 10/7/09

Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue creates water task force

Governor Perdue has announced the creation of a task force that will develop contingency plans for water consumption in the state. The task force is part of a four-pronged strategy for addressing a federal ruling that will limit the access of water in Lake Lanier. The other parts of the strategy include congressional action, negotiations and appeal of the decision. The task force will include several dozen leaders from business, government and environmental organizations. Coca-Cola Enterprises CEO John Brock and Tim Lowe of Lowe Engineers have agreed to co-chair the task force, which will meet throughout the fall and present recommendations before the January 2010 legislative session. AccessNorthGeorgia_ 9/29/09

Floods fill Atlanta's Chattahoochee River with E.coli

The floods may be gone for most of Atlanta, but officials say it will be weeks before all the waterways are free of sewage and sediment, and tons of trash collected by the storms is cleaned up. Sally Bethea with the Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper said federal officials tested the river and found the E. coli bacteria level was 42 times greater than the highest safe level. “There is no way you want to get in or even touch water [this dirty],” Bethea said. “I’ve never seen the water so filthy. It was just filthy, and it didn’t smell very good in some places." At the same time, Atlanta officials said their R.M. Clayton sewage treatment plant, the same one that was swamped by the flood, has been inundated with trash brought in by the high water. The city said Thursday that it was able to partially treat waste coming into the facility. City officials still don’t know when it will be fully functional again. The U.S. Park Service on Wednesday shut down use of portions of the Chattahoochee, citing the dumping of raw sewage from broken sewage lines in Roswell. Atlanta Journal Constitution_ 9/27/09

Under water: Georgia recovers, mourning after fatal floods

Dry skies greeted Georgia for a second day Wednesday, giving residents a chance to mourn, recover and repair after devastating floods killed nine people earlier this week. Gov. Sonny Perdue has declared a state of emergency in 17 flood-stricken counties, and State Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine estimated that the flooding has caused an estimated $250 million in losses. Georgia's flood-related death toll has reached nine, authorities said. To the north, one person was missing and presumed dead in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Georgia may see rain this weekend, CNN meteorologist Jacqui Jeras said. "Of course we're not expecting another foot of rain," she said, "but we could pick up an inch or two." CNN_ 9/24/09

'Historic' storm continues to pound Southeast

Months after the end of a historic drought that wreaked three years of slow-motion damage on the Southeast, a potent but sluggardly storm system has parked itself over much of the region, dumping days' worth of rain that has washed out hundreds of roads and bridges and caused at least six deaths. On Monday, the tropical system, which has brought rain for as many as six days in some areas, had triggered flood warnings in parts of Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina, Virginia and Georgia, according to the National Weather Service. More than 20 inches have been recorded in the last 36 hours in some parts of the Atlanta area, spokesman Frank Taylor said. More rain was expected overnight Monday, with the earliest reprieve probably coming Wednesday, although rain could continue through the weekend. The weather service called the flooding "historic" and life-threatening, and warned many residents to stay home, if home was safe enough. The storms arrived less than six months after Georgia's three-year drought was officially declared over by the state climatologist. In late 2007, the state had become so parched that Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue hosted a public event in which he and others prayed for rain. Los Angeles Times_ 9/22/09

Georgia to appeal water wars ruling

The state of Georgia, the Atlanta Regional Commission and other local governments served notice they will appeal a ruling that said metro Atlanta cannot rely on Lake Lanier for all its water needs.  In court filings this week, the Georgia parties said they will ask the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta to overturn Senior U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson’s July 17 order.  Todd Stacy, a spokesman for Alabama Gov. Bob Riley, said Georgia’s bid to appeal “represents a refusal to accept reality. ... Rather than engaging in pointless appeals, Georgia would be better served devoting its efforts to negotiating a long-term solution with its neighbors.”  The office of Florida Gov. Charlie Crist could not be reached for comment.  AJC_9/17/09

Atlanta reservoir proposal

A new proposal would result in a 2,000 acre water reservoir in north Georgia. The plan under discussion comes as Georgia battles Alabama and Florida over water resources. Dawson Forest is a huge swath of woodlands, southwest of the city of Dawsonville. Dawson Forest is owned by the city of Atlanta. Now, the Etowah Water and Sewer Authority wants to buy the 10,000 acre tract and build a 2,000 acre water reservoir. The remaining 8,000 acres would be maintained as a protected area. MyFoxAtlanta_ 8/25/09

Georgia lawmakers to seek water meeting with Florida and Alabama congressional delegation

Leaders of Georgia’s congressional delegation will invite their colleagues from Florida and Alabama to a meeting to discuss the recent court ruling on water from Lake Lanier, U.S. Rep. David Scott said Tuesday. The Atlanta Democrat said Reps. John Lewis, D-Atlanta, and Nathan Deal, R-Gainesville, have agreed to his suggestion that the Georgians seek to sit down with the other two states’ delegations when Congress goes back into session after Labor Day. “They’re not going to ask us to get together,” Scott said following a luncheon speech to members of the Kiwanis Club of Atlanta. “They don’t need it. We’ve got to go to them." Atlanta Business Chronicle_ 8/25/09

Border marker missing in Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama water dispute

After gaining fame in recent years as the symbol of flawed 19th century surveys that now keep Georgia a stone's throw away from the Tennessee River's water,the Camak Stone, the 200-year-old survey marker is missing. The vandalism was discovered recently by Freddie McCulley, a volunteer groundskeeper for nearby State Line Cemetery. In 2008, Bart Crattie, the local surveyor and a board member of the Surveyors Historical Society, wrote a research article for American Surveyor, stating that flawed surveys in the early 1800s misplaced the state line and took Tennessee River water out of Georgians' mouths. Mr. Crattie's research set off months of legislative and gubernatorial rhetoric back and forth across the Tennessee and Georgia state lines. Mr. Crattie said the missing marker likely has been the victim of a relic hunter. "I'll bet you it's on eBay," he said. "There's a huge market for surveying relics." Chattanooga Times Free Press_ 8/23/09

Georgia water negotiator optimistic about a deal with Alabama

Georgia's chief water negotiator says he's "guardedly optimistic" that Georgia and Alabama can reach a water deal by the end of the year. Georgia Power President Michael Garrett, chosen by Gov. Sonny Perdue to help broker a deal, said Thursday he hopes the two states can hammer out a deal so Georgia can then focus on resolving a separate water fight with Florida over the Chattahoochee River. AP/Miami Herald_ 8/21/09

Alabama governor agrees to tri-state water talks; Now it's up to Florida

Alabama Gov. Bob Riley has agreed to meet with Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue in an attempt to hash out a water-sharing agreement, Perdue said Monday. Now it’s up to Gov. Charlie Crist of Florida to join in as well. Perdue sent the two governors a list of 40 possible dates in which he was willing to sit down and talk about the use of Lake Lanier in Georgia, which a federal judge last month said could not be tapped for drinking water. Riley faxed a response with about 20 dates on Monday, Perdue told reporters at the Governor’s Mansion. “Now it’s up to us to contact Gov. Crist and get a date and a venue,” said Perdue, flanked by 10 of the members of Georgia’s congressional delegation. Atlanta Journal Constitution_ 8/18/09

Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue and state's congressmen take on specific water tasks

Gov. Sonny Perdue and members of Georgia’s congressional delegation met Monday to divide up the duties of responding to a federal court decision that threatens the state’s water supply future. “There are some things Congress must address and some things that the state must address,” Perdue told reporters at the Governor’s Mansion after sitting down with both of Georgia’s U.S. senators and eight of the state’s 13 congressmen. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., said the congressional delegation has yet to decide whether to push a broad bill that would affect federally managed reservoirs across the country or a narrower measure aimed only at Lake Lanier in Georgia. Atlanta Business Chronicle_ 8/17/09

Georgia's Lake Allatoona may be next battle in tri-state water war

The next skirmish in metro Atlanta’s so far losing battle for drinking water will begin in a federal courtroom in Birmingham on Monday. U.S. District Court Judge Karon Bowdre is weighing whether North Georgia illegally taps Lake Allatoona. Her ruling is expected next year. Lake Allatoona flows into the Coosa River, which flows into the Alabama River. Last month a federal judge ruled that Atlanta has no right to drink from Lake Lanier, a potentially crushing blow for future growth and development in North Georgia. The two reservoirs provide drinking water for nearly 4.5 million metro Atlantans. If, as many water warriors expect, Bowdre rules against Georgia, then Atlanta’s future rests largely in Alabama’s hands. Atlanta Journal Constitution_ 8/17/09

River basin fight pits Atlanta against neighbors

The residents of Atlanta, the economic engine of the South, as they like to call this comparatively gleaming and rapidly expanding state capital, have always suspected that they are the objects of resentment from their more rural neighbors. Now they are certain of it. A recent court defeat has left Atlanta howling that its enemies, including Alabama and Florida, are trying to choke off the city’s prosperity, if not out of sheer spite then at least the misguided notion that jobs and money would flow to them instead. The conflict is the timeworn rural-versus-urban enmity writ large, a battle over water that has pitted Atlanta against its neighbors in and out of Georgia. Alabama officials say that they are not trying to prevent Atlanta from growing but that they want the city to pay for the infrastructure that growth requires. In 1948, the mayor of Atlanta declined to contribute money to the construction of the Lake Lanier dam, arguing that the city would not need the water. New York Times_ 8/15/09

Looking back at Alabama's Allatoona claim

In a 1940 letter that is now at the heart of a water rights war in Georgia, then-U.S. Army Chief of Engineers J.L. Schley wrote Congress about the purposes for a new reservoir on Georgia’s Etowah River: flood control, navigation and power generation. Congress ultimately approved the Allatoona Reservoir’s construction, consistent with Maj. Gen. Schley’s recommendations. More than a half-century later, Alabama is citing the congressional record that contains Schley’s letter and arguing in court that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is illegally allowing the Atlanta region to tap Allatoona for drinking water. The corps, which manages the reservoir, denies Alabama’s allegations, saying federal law allows it to permit certain withdrawals from Allatoona without congressional approval. Atlanta Journal Constitution_ 8/15/09

Georgia congressmen try for national solution to water sharing

Members of Georgia’s congressional delegation are considering floating legislation as early as September that could make it legal for municipalities to draw drinking water from not only Lake Lanier but nearly 80 other federally managed reservoirs in 27 states. Just like Lanier, an estimated 77 other Corps of Engineers-managed lakes in 27 states are used for municipal water supplies even though they aren’t specifically authorized for that purpose, according to researchers in U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson’s office. Five other Georgia lakes are also on the list, including Allatoona Lake and Lake Hartwell. The Corps of Engineers hasn’t verified those numbers. Obstacles to a national policy include the politics involved with getting different states to agree on something as contentious as how water should be used and by whom; a raft of other hot-button issues, such as endangered species laws and flood control and it would still probably be left to governors or other state officials in the states to sort out how much they each get. Atlanta Journal-Constitution_ 8/13/09

Confidentiality agreements among governors could hinder water talks

Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue may not talk with Florida and Alabama about sharing water, unless they agree to lift confidentiality agreements about the negotiations. Perdue and Alabama Gov. Bob Riley have been in a war of words over who failed in water negotiations two years ago. No one can find out because of a confidentiality agreement put in place to give all parties room to talk freely. Perdue spokesman Bert Brantley says lifting confidentiality in any future water talks is key for Perdue. Georgia Public Broadcasting_ 8/7/09

Q & A with Georgia Rep. John Linder, co-chair of the Congressional Water Causus: Federal law needs to be changed to allow Lake Lanier water to be used for drinking

Linder (R-Duluth) said Congress is researching other reservoirs around the nation for drinking water restrictions similar to those on Lake Lanier. Congress, he said, will be asked to adopt a statute that "expands the human use of water" and allows Lanier to be used as a water supply. Atlanta Journal-Constitution_ 8/2/09

Georgia legal fees to fight tri-state water war nearly $6.7 million

Georgia has spent nearly $6.7 million on outside legal fees to fight the tri-state water war, the state attorney general’s office said Tuesday. And the Atlanta Regional Commission said it has spent $5 million on the same litigation over the water in Lake Lanier. Russ Willard, spokesman for Attorney General Thurbert Baker, said the state had paid $6,661,578.09 to McKenna Long & Aldridge, the Atlanta firm representing Georgia in the litigation since 1996. Before that, Willard said, in-house counsel handled the case. The Atlanta firm of King & Spalding has been handling the Atlanta Regional Commission’s litigation in the case at least since 1999, said Julie Ralston, communications director for the ARC. The $5 million total does not include the agency’s legal expenses from 1999 to 2001. Ralston said the fees paid to King & Spalding came from metro municipalities that joined in the battle with the state, including the city of Atlanta and DeKalb and Fulton counties. Atlanta Journal-Constitution_ 7/29/09

Blame game in use of Lake Lanier for Atlanta region's drinking water

After building the Lake Lanier reservoir in 1960, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers helped transform it into something for which it was never intended: the Atlanta region’s main source of drinking water. Court records show the Corps repeatedly permitted local governments to withdraw water from the federal reservoir, even though Congress didn’t authorize its construction for that purpose. Meanwhile, the region’s population — and its demand for water — grew rapidly to the point where more than 3 million people depend on drinking water from the lake today. Critics say the Corps helped push the region into this crisis by giving into local political pressure for drinking water as the area developed and generated more tax revenues. Atlanta Journal-Constitution_ 7/26/09

Water war to impact Georgia-Florida football rivalry?

A Georgia legislator this week called on the University of Georgia to move the annual Georgia-Florida football game out of Jacksonville every other year as a response to a federal judge’s ruling last week that Georgia is illegally withdrawing water from Lake Lanier. The ruling dealt a blow to Georgia but heavily favors Florida and Alabama. State Sen. John Douglas (R-Social Circle) said Jacksonville has been a great venue, but the game has a $25 million financial impact that Georgia should keep. Atlanta Journal-Constitution_ 7/24/09

Georgia researches next move in water sharing with Alabama and Florida

Georgia's congressional delegation met in Washington last night to discuss what to do after a federal judge ruled the state has three years to get Congressional approval for Atlanta to keep using drinking water from Lake Lanier. Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) says before any congressional action can be taken, his office is researching whether situations like this exist elsewhere in the country or if Georgia would set a precedent. Georgia Public Broadcasting_ 7/22/09

Gainesville, Georgia uncertain of impact from federal judge's water ruling

Gainesville Public Utilities Director Kelly Randall said he still is not sure how last week's federal ruling on the purpose of Lake Lanier will affect Gainesville's water use. Randall told the Gainesville City Council this morning that he is still reading the 97-page decision issued Friday by U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson ordering that Atlanta has three years to win congressional approval to keep withdrawing drinking water from the lake. The order still allows Gainesville and Buford to withdraw water for municipal drinking purposes but at greatly reduced levels. According to the ruling, if Congress does not give Atlanta and other municipalities permission to use the lake as a water source in the next three years, only the cities of Gainesville and Buford would be allowed to continue to use Lake Lanier for drinking water, and that would be at mid-1970s levels. Gainesville Times_ 7/21/09

Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue open to negotiations as one option to ending 20-year water war with Florida and Alabama

Gov. Sonny Perdue signaled Monday that he is not opposed to restarting negotiations with the governors of Florida and Alabama on how to share the water in Lake Lanier. But in the wake of last week’s court ruling on Georgia’s use of Lanier, Perdue is also content to let Congress or the courts decide the dispute, his spokesman, Bert Brantley, said. The state’s entire congressional delegation is expected to gather Tuesday afternoon in Washington to discuss how to proceed. Perdue and his staff will join the emergency session via conference call, Brantley said Monday. Perdue may be more reluctant to negotiate because the court ruling clearly favors Alabama and Florida. Also, Perdue will be out of office in January 2011 — meaning any negotiations he starts may not be complete before a new governor takes office. Atlanta Journal-Constitution_ 7/20/09

Legislators in Alabama's Tennessee River Valley unite on a common agenda

Some time after Tennessee Valley legislators began working together on bills to protect the Tennessee River from large water withdrawals elsewhere, they realized firsthand the power of numbers. In 2005 and 2006, as Alabama-Georgia-Florida water wars heated up, legislators in North Alabama worked together to pass bills protecting the Tennessee River against huge water withdrawals. The legislators realized that together they made up a powerful group at the Statehouse. The river, running through all counties the legislators represent, turned out to be the unifying force. Times Daily_ 7/19/09

Georgia will appeal federal court water ruling: Governor

Governor Sonny Perdue says the state will appeal a federal ruling against Georgia in a regional water dispute with Florida and Alabama. Perdue will meet with Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) next week. Perdue argues the ruling is based on outdated assumptions about federal reservoirs and he wants Congress to address the realities of modern day usage. Georgia Public Broadcasting_ 7/18/09

Florida, Alabama win federal court battle in 'water wars'

A federal judge on Friday ruled against Georgia in the state’s water dispute with Alabama and Florida, deciding that Atlanta must stop withdrawing water from a massive federal reservoir within three years unless it can get approval from Congress. U.S. District Court Judge Paul Magnuson said Lake Lanier wasn’t built for water supply and the state’s withdrawals are illegal. He acknowledged it would be impossible to immediately stop using the lake because it is metro Atlanta’s main water supply. But he said if the state can’t get permission from Congress within three years, the withdrawals must end. Florida Gov. Charlie Crist called the ruling “a monumental milestone” in the 18-year, tri-state battle over water. Alabama Gov. Bob Riley said the ruling would have a tremendous impact on his state’s economic future. “Atlanta has based its growth on the idea that it could take whatever water it wanted whenever it wanted it, and that the downstream states would simply have to make do with less,” Riley said. “Following the Court’s ruling today, this massive illegal water grab will be coming to an end." The case involves a 2003 water-sharing agreement with the Army Corps of Engineers that would have allowed Georgia to take far more water from Lanier for its drinking supply over the coming decades. wire/Tallahassee Democrat_ 7/17/09

Federal court sides with Alabama in water war with Georgia Birmingham News_ 7/17/09

Alabama's senators react to water war victory WSFA12News_ 7/17/09

Federal judge rules against Georgia in water litigation

His ruling handed the metro Atlanta area a crushing legal defeat. The judge found that the Corps of Engineers should have obtained congressional approval before allowing Lake Lanier to be the metro area’s primary source of water supply. In a joint statement, Georgia senators Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss acknowledged it is now up to Congress to reach a compromise. Atlanta Journal-Constitution_ 7/17/09

Download pdf of the 97-page decision

 

Alabama Power Company official predicts favorable federal court ruling in water dispute

An Alabama Power Company official said Thursday he expects a favorable court ruling for Florida and Alabama involving the sharing of water from the ACF, Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river basins, which could also benefit Alabama's case involving the ACT, or the Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa. Matthew Bowden, a former Bausch & Bingham attorney who is Willard Bowers' successor as the APC's new vice president of environmental affairs, said parties involved in the ACF case submitted their briefs and argued their case in May, and he expects a ruling from the federal courts by the end of July or August. In the ACT case, Alabama officials contend the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is also operating Lake Allatoona in a way inconsistent with congressional authorization. Talladega Daily Home_ 7/17/09

Temperatures to rise in Southeast U.S.

Due to global warming, the Southeast is likely to see twice as many days a year with temperatures hitting the 90 degree mark or hotter, according to a federal report released last month. The report also predicts that the hottest days will be more than 10 degrees hotter. The report by the U.S. Global Change Research Program synthesizes the results of research assembled by 13 federal departments and agencies including NASA, the departments of defense and energy, the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Research Council. It is the second report ever issued by the federal government on the predicted impacts of global climate change on the United States, and the first one to break down impacts by region. Macon.com_ 7/12/09

download a pdf of the full report: Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States; U.S. Global Change Research Program, June 16, 2009 

Amendment to federal appropriations bill could require Corps of Engineers to report how it allocates water to Georgia, Alabama and Florida

U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) has offered an amendment to a federal appropriations bill that could make the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers report how it allocates water along the two river basins that have been the subject of tri-state water war. For two decades, Alabama, Georgia and Florida have wrestled in court over the amount of water that should be allocated to each state from the Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa and Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river basins. Alabama and Florida contend that Georgia has been illegally using reservoirs connected to these river basins as a source of water for the city of Atlanta. Shelby's amendment was tacked on to the fiscal 2010 Energy, Water and Related Agencies appropriations bill during a Senate Appropriations Committee markup of the legislation. Gov. Bob Riley applauded Shelby's amendment, which was accepted and will now go before the full Senate. Alabama has contended that the Corps made a secret agreement to allow Atlanta to illegally withdraw water from federal reservoirs in north Georgia. Montgomery Advertiser_ 7/10/09

Water, crowds return to Lake Lanier

Business owners who rely on the lake to make a living are hoping business will be better now that the lake is near full pool for the first time in several years. It's a far cry from last year when lake levels were bouncing off December’s record lows. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which manages Lake Lanier, says people are back. Numbers for April show an increase of 40,000 visitors from the same month last year. But visitors declined in May by nearly 80,000 due to heavier than normal rainfall. Atlanta Journal Constitution_ 7/3/09

June is Florida Rivers Month

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist recently signed a proclamation honoring June as Florida Rivers Month, recognizing the importance of protecting the more than 50,000 miles of rivers and streams flowing throughout the state. Florida's famed waterways include the historic Suwannee River made famous by folk musician Stephen Foster, the 310-mile St. Johns River, one of only a few rivers in North America that flows north, and Northwest Florida's Apalachicola River, which helps supply 90 percent of Florida's oysters by feeding Apalachicola Bay. Ponte Vedra Leader_ 6/17/09

Georgia declares 'drought is over' and eases water rules, but urges restraint

State officials relaxed watering restrictions Wednesday, saying a rainy spring has refreshed groundwater, raised the pool in Lake Lanier and rehydrated North Georgia. In short, “The drought is over,” said Carol Couch, director of the Georgia Environmental protection division. But some restrictions remain in place, and state officials said it’s important for Georgians to keep using the conservation habits that helped significantly cut water use over the past 2 1/2 years. Some environmentalists worry the state moved too quickly in easing restrictions. Atlanta Journal-Constitution_ 6/10/09

Corps of Engineers says Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River water conditions back to 'normal'

WaterWebster.org Staff Report

June 1, 2009

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The Army Corps of Engineers said today adequate rainfall in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint Rivers watershed means management of the region can return to 'normal' following a three-year drought. At the height of the Southeast U.S. drought zone 4 water management restrictions, the most severe possible, were in place along the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint rivers, triggering heightened arguments over water sharing between Georgia, Florida and Alabama. The Corps' Mobile District Public Affairs Officer, E. Patrick Robbins, said in the news release that “due to the lower lakes being at full summer levels we should be able to meet downstream needs with normal basin inflow for the foreseeable future. Releases from Lake Lanier will continue to be just for water quality and water supply requirements at this time.” (Full Story)

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist urges Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to work for solution to tri-state water war

WaterWebster.org Staff Report

May 29, 2009

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Florida Gov. Charlie Crist told Interior Secretary Ken Salazar it is "imperative" that a long-term solution be found to end the water sharing conflict between Florida, Georgia and Alabama. "As you are aware, Florida, Georgia, Alabama and the Federal Agencies continue to be embroiled in lawsuits and controversy over the management of the reservoirs on the Apalachicola, Chattahoochee and Flint River systems," Crist wrote in a May 28 letter to Salazar. "This is a tri-state problem which requires a tri-state solution." Salazar was in Georgia and Florida this week and met with Crist and Georgia Gov. Sony Perdue, in part to discuss the water sharing conflict. (Full Story)

Download a pdf of Crist's letter to Salazar

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar looks to Colorado, Kansas and Nebraska as example of how to end Georgia, Florida, Alabama water sharing fight

As a former attorney general for Colorado, Salazar helped hash out a water-allocation plan between Colorado, Kansas and Nebraska, which had been feuding since 1984. The combatants spent $60 million on lawyers and engineers —- efforts that “did not yield a single drop of water,” Salazar said. But the western states’ success in finding a solution makes Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue optimistic about doing the same here, Perdue spokesman Bert Brantley said. “The governor sees wide opportunity for us to make some real progress,” Brantley said. Atlanta Journal-Constitution_ 5/29/09

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar offers to help Georgia, Florida and Alabama reach agreement on ending water war

Salazar said in an interview with the Gainesville, Florida Times that his meeting Wednesday with Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue was "very constructive." Salazar meets today with Florida Gov. Charlie Crist. Salazar said he told Perdue that he would be willing to help facilitate an agreement between Georgia, Florida and Alabama in their dispute over who has the rights to water from rivers and lakes that span the three states. "I think he (Perdue) also made his clear statement that he believes it’s better to resolve the conflicts with Florida and Alabama through an agreement rather than spending money down the rat hole of endless litigation. I very much agree with him and told him as I will tell the other governors that we are happy to help if there is any role we can play that would be constructive in ending the 16 year dispute," Salazar said. Gainesville Times_ 5/27/09

But Salazar won't force anyone to negotiate

Salazar said it’s up to the governors of Georgia, Florida and Alabama to hash out the nearly 20-year long battle over who controls the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River. “I do not see us as coming in and hammering heads and getting the deal done,” Salazar said at a news conference with Gov. Sonny Perdue on Wednesday after a helicopter tour of Lake Lanier. Atlanta Journal-Constitution_ 5/27/09

Editor's Note: On March 1, 2008 former Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne announced negotiations with Georgia, Florida and Alabama over water sharing issues failed. Text of Kempthorne's letter.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to get fly-over tour of Lake Lanier

Salazar will be joined today by Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue in taking a helicopter tour of Lake Lanier and areas previously under drought. Despite above-normal rainfall in north Georgia in recent months, Lanier is still more than five-feet below full pool. Georgia Public Radio_ 5/27/09

Judge in Florida, Georgia, Alabama water wars earns kudos on the bench

Senior U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson, 72, of St. Paul, Minn., was picked in March 2007 to preside over the multidistrict litigation involving Georgia, Alabama and Florida. A panel of federal judges called Magnuson “exceptionally well-qualified” to see the case through to an expeditious resolution. It noted that Magnuson previously oversaw litigation involving water rights to the Missouri River. All told, Magnuson is overseeing eight lawsuits involving the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin. Parties include the Atlanta Regional Commission, Alabama Power, the Lake Lanier Recreation Association, Gwinnett County, the city of Columbus, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and co-ops that buy hydropower from Buford Dam. In the Missouri River case, Magnuson ruled in favor of the Corps of Engineers, saying it could operate the river without changes sought by environmentalists to save endangered fish and birds. He was upheld on appeal. Atlanta Journal-Constitution_ 5/17/09

Federal judge says ruling in Florida, Georgia, Alabama water sharing not likely soon

A federal judge on Monday criticized the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for taking decades to determine how to allocate water from Lake Lanier. Senior U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson said he now must decide the momentous question of whether metro Atlanta is entitled to rely on Lake Lanier as its primary source of drinking water. Magnuson predicted it would take some time before he issues what is certain to be a lengthy ruling. Atlanta Journal-Constitution_ 5/12/09

Federal judge begins hearings on Georgia, Florida, Alabama water sharing

After almost two decades, the hard-fought, tri-state water wars litigation that has engulfed Georgia, Alabama and Florida has arrived at the central battlefield. In a Jacksonville courtroom Monday, a federal judge will consider the question: Is metro Atlanta entitled to rely on Lake Lanier as its primary source of drinking water? Senior U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson, appointed to oversee a number of related water lawsuits, will preside over the much-anticipated hearing. Last year, the St. Paul, Minn., judge said the answer to the question over Lake Lanier’s water may make other disagreements in the high-stakes case “obsolete." Georgia has countered that the Water Supply Act only requires congressional approval by those unauthorized to tap into Lake Lanier. Atlanta Journal Constitution_ 5/11/09

Debt may hamper Atlanta, Georgia's ability to fix water system

Atlanta officials fear the city’s $4 billion water and sewer system overhaul could collapse because the city’s crushing debt and already low credit rating threaten the city’s ability to borrow money in ever-tightening credit markets. The city hopes Monday to issue $500 million to $700 million in new bonds for the program, with much of the money to refund old debt that must be repaid before interest rates or other factors send payments skyrocketing. The planned issuance comes as the City Council is mulling Thursday’s release of an audit of the city’s Watershed Management Department that questions the way the city has set rates and notes the department’s huge debt. Atlanta Journal-Constitution_ 5/2/09

$3 million in federal stimulus money to study management of the Apalachicola, Chattahoochee, Flint River basin

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says $3 million to complete a study on managing the Apalachicola, Chattahoochee, Flint River basin is coming from federal stimulus money. The sum is part of $293 million the Mobile, Ala., district receives in federal stimulus funds; Alabama, Georgia and Florida have been embroiled in a long-running dispute over water in the basin. wjhg.com_ 4/29/09

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announces $293 million in economic recovery projects for Florida, Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi

WaterWebster.org Staff ReportApril 28, 2009

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The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Tuesday released a list of 172 construction  and maintenance projects in Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia and Florida to be built with $293 million in economic recovery funds.The energy and water development projects are part of an overall $4.6 billion appropriation for the Corps' Civil Works national program that was signed into law Feb. 17 by Pres. Barack Obama. read full story
Complete list of Corps projects

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to release more water from Georgia's Lake Lanier

The Corps on Thursday denied metro Atlanta’s request to further raise Lake Lanier by minimizing water releases for another month. Georgia officials didn't join Atlanta in asking for reduced releases. The corps’ decision was announced in a regularly scheduled conference call with Georgia, Florida and Alabama. The states have been fighting over Lanier’s water since 1990. Atlanta Journal-Constitution_ 4/23/09

Atlanta, Georgia drought officially over

The drought is over in metro Atlanta — three years after it began and more than a year after a dwindling Lake Lanier made national news. Lanier is still recovering and still stands more than 9 feet below full. The lake is the water source for more than 3 million metro Atlantans. Atlanta is still more than an inch below normal rainfall this year. The drought and access to water stored in Lake Lanier renewed a 19-year-old water war between Georgia, Florida and Alabama. Atlanta Journal-Constitution_ 3/30/09

Southern governors wage water war over rights to Lake Lanier

A trio of Southern governors are fighting a water war to determine who has rights to the resources in Georgia's Lake Lanier, a man-made reservoir that provides drinking water to the nearly 4 million residents of the metro Atlanta area. Battles have been raging for the past two decades between Florida, Alabama and Georgia. At issue is who controls the water in Lake Lanier — Congress or the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Alabama Gov. Bob Riley declined a recent interview request on advice from legal counsel, as the dispute heads back to a federal court in Jacksonville, Fla., where a judge is expected to rule on the matter this spring. Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue said he's ready to negotiate with his counterparts in establishing a new agreement, but hasn't yet had much success. "I remain committed to try to negotiate with our fellow states in a shared agreement," Gov. Perdue said. "But it takes more than one to negotiate." Fox News_ 2/26/09

Georgia creates 10 water councils to divvy up state's rivers, lakes and aquifers

The governor, lieutenant governor and House speaker on Wednesday appointed 300 farmers, government officials, businessmen and others to 10 regional water councils that will decide how to divide rivers, lakes and underground aquifers. The councils will oversee long-term plans for developing new water supplies and sewage treatment facilities, and conservation. Leaders of the Georgia Water Coalition, a statewide group of environmental and civic organizations that advocates for clean water, immediately criticized the absence of environmentalists among the appointees. Atlanta Journal-Constitution_ 2/11/09

List of council members and map of the water planning regions.

 

January, 2009

Feds: Atlanta can count on water from Lake Lanier

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says it has the legal authority to supply metro Atlanta’s drinking water from Lake Lanier. The Corps’ legal opinion, released late Thursday, is a good harbinger for metro Atlanta in proceedings unfolding in a federal court in Jacksonville, Fla. That’s where a federal judge is expected to rule this year on that very question: Can more than 3 million metro Atlantans continue to depend on Lanier for water, or does Congress need to decide? The 31-page answer by the Corps’ Chief Counsel, Earl H. Stockdale, is that the region can count on Lanier. Stockdale said when Congress authorized the construction of Lanier in 1947, it expected the lake “would provide an incidental water supply benefit to the Atlanta region." Atlanta Journal-Constitution_ 1/23/09

U.S. Supreme Court won't hear Georgia water appeal

The U.S. Supreme Court Monday declined to hear Georgia’s appeal of a lower court ruling in the long-running tri-state water wars. The high court denied a request to review a decision handed down nearly a year ago by the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington invalidating a 2003 agreement to let metro Atlanta water utilities increase withdrawals from Lake Lanier from about 13 percent of the lake’s capacity to about 22 percent. The agreement between Georgia and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was challenged by the states of Florida and Alabama, which lie downstream of Lanier in the Chattahoochee River system. Atlanta Business Chronicle_ 1/12/09

New Georgia water plan adds six reservoirs; Plan is open for public comment

Metro Atlanta’s draft water plan for supplying the growing region through 2035 is ready for public comment.  The draft includes proposals for handling water supply and sewage, and protecting the region’s six major river basins. This is the first update of a plan adopted in 2003 by the Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District.  Among the proposals are six additional reservoirs to serve population growth forecast to be more than 50 percent, to 7.5 million people in the 15-county district. Also, more water would be drawn from lakes Lanier and Allatoona, and the Chattahoochee River.  Omitted from the final draft were controversial proposals to tap into the Flint River and West Point Lake on the Chattahoochee near LaGrange, which is outside the district.  Click here to download the draft plan.

To access more information about the draft plan, other long-term water and wastewater plans and scheduled public meetings, go to www.northgeorgiawater.org/html/313.htmAJC.com_1/9/09

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