Lawmakers Criticize Corps on Water Management

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Lawmakers caught in a tri-state struggle over water say the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is rigid and unresponsive to local needs amid a record southern drought.

Alabama Democratic Representative Bud Cramer told two Corps leaders yesterday that the Corps has been one of the most frustrating agencies to work with.

The corps has frequently played referee in the years-long ``water wars'' among Alabama, Georgia and Florida, and each state has accused the agency of favoring the others in deciding water allocations from the region's two major river basins.

The corps' recent proposal to hold back more water for the Atlanta area's shrinking water supply, a plan ratified by the states' governors at a meeting in Washington last week, has only exacerbated those concerns.

Representative Lynn Westmoreland, a Georgia Republican who convened the meeting along with Republican Representative John Mica
of Florida, said Atlanta's water crisis has received most of the corps' attention at the expense of smaller areas downstream, including in his district southwest of Atlanta.

He said many lakes south of Atlanta are in worse condition than Lake Lanier, Atlanta's main drinking supply. But every time he tries to get straight answers from the corps, Westmoreland said, the agency ``lawyers up'' and offers vague assurances at best.

Earl Stockdale, the agency's chief counsel, and corps Brigadier General Joe Schroedel, said the agency must balance a dizzying array of competing demands.

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