Georgia Appoints Lawyers For Florida Water Dispute

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Associated Press Release

ATLANTA (AP) -- Georgia officials have appointed lawyers to handle a legal dispute with Florida over regional water rights.

State officials said Monday that attorneys Seth Waxman, Chris Landau and Craig Primis will lead Georgia's litigation team. It will also include Georgia attorneys Bruce Brown, Todd Silliman and John Allen.

Florida officials have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to divide up the water rights in the Chattahoochee, Flint and Apalachicola rivers. The river system serves Alabama, Florida and Georgia.

That lawsuit is the latest in a long-running dispute between the states. Florida says that metro Atlanta uses too much water, leaving too little for downstream communities, businesses and wildlife.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal said Florida should negotiate a solution, not litigate.

By: Andy Alcock
October 1, 2013

Tallahassee, FL - Florida's water war with Georgia is moving to the courtroom. At issue is the supply of fresh water for Apalachicola Bay.

The state is asking the United States Supreme Court to slow Georgia's consumption of critical fresh water.

The lack of that fresh water flowing from the Apalachicola River, according to the 96 page filing, means Florida's fisheries have "suffered declines". The state points the finger at Georgia's increasing upstream storage and consumption of that fresh water. In particular, Florida claims that storage is taking place at Lake Lanier outside Atlanta.

In a statement, Governor Rick Scott says Georgia has refused to fairly share the waters flowing between the states. So the matter has been brought to the Supreme Court.

The lack of fresh water has been especially tough on the oyster industry. The complaint claims increased salt in Apalachicola Bay has caused those oysters to die, suffer more disease and increase predators in the Bay.

Press Release: Governor Scott's Office

TAMPA, FL – Today, Florida Governor Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi announced that the State of Florida has filed suit against Georgia to stop its unchecked and growing consumption of water that continues to harm the families of Northwest Florida.

Governor Rick Scott said, “Georgia has refused to fairly share the waters that flow between our two states, so to stop Georgia’s unmitigated consumption of water we have brought the matter before the U.S. Supreme Court. Georgia’s over-consumption of water threatens the existence of Apalachicola Bay and the future economic development of the region. Generations of Florida families have relied upon these waters for their livelihood, but now risk losing their way of life if Georgia’s actions are not stopped. Through this historic legal action we are fighting for the future of Apalachicola Bay and its families. After 20 years of failed negotiations with Georgia, this is our only way forward in securing the economic future of Northwest Florida.”

Attorney General Pam Bondi said, "I am proud to join Governor Scott in this fight to protect Florida's fair share of water from Georgia's over-consumption, which is devastating Apalachicola Bay's ecosystem."

Florida and Alabama have each sought relief from harm caused by reduced flows and increased Georgia consumption in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (ACF) River Basins over the past 20 years through legal challenges, without success. Florida now proposes to address the problem squarely – an Original Action filed with the U.S. Supreme Court seeking injunctive relief against Georgia’s unmitigated and unsustainable upstream consumption of water from the Chattahoochee and Flint River Basins.

Apalachicola River water levels are impacted by withdrawals from the Chattahoochee and Flint Rivers at all times. The Metro-Atlanta area primarily obtains its water from the Chattahoochee River, with withdrawals totaling 360 million gallons per day. Georgia’s consumption is expected to nearly double to approximately 705 million gallons per day by 2040, as Atlanta’s population and associated water withdrawals grow unchecked. That estimated daily consumption represents the approximate water volume of the entire Apalachicola Bay on an annual basis.

Historically-low water levels brought about by Georgia’s excessive consumption have caused oysters to die because of higher salinity, increased disease and predator intrusion in the Bay. Until recently, Apalachicola Bay accounted for approximately 10 percent of the nation’s Eastern oyster supply. However, the oyster industry in Apalachicola collapsed in 2012 after years of reduced flows of freshwater into the Bay, leading Governor Scott to seek and obtain a Commercial Fisheries Disaster Declaration from the U.S. Department of Commerce earlier this year.

Press Release: Office of Governor Nathan Deal

August 13, 2013

After Florida Gov. Rick Scott said today that his state will sue Georgia in the U.S. Supreme Court over water use, Gov. Nathan Deal called the move a frivolous waste of time and money when Georgia has waited more than a year for Florida to respond to its latest settlement proposal.

“Gov. Scott’s threat to sue my state in the U.S. Supreme Court greatly disappoints me after I negotiated in good faith for two years,” Deal said. “More than a year ago, I offered a framework for a comprehensive agreement. Florida never responded. It’s absurd to waste taxpayers’ money and prolong this process with a court battle when I’ve proposed a workable solution. Georgia has made significant progress on water conservation and has proposed an agreement that would meet the needs of both states. While the timing seems to work for political purposes, it’s ironic this comes at a time when Florida and Georgia are experiencing historically high rainfall. The fastest and best resolution is an agreement, not a lawsuit going into an election year. On the flip side, the merits of Georgia’s arguments have consistently prevailed in federal court, and a victory in the U.S. Supreme Court would decide this issue in Georgia’s favor once and for all.”

Associated Press Release

Associated Press Release

APALACHICOLA, Fla. (AP) -- Florida Gov. Rick Scott says the state is going to sue the state of Georgia over its increased consumption of water that is limiting flow to the Apalachicola River.

Scott in a statement said Florida needed to take the drastic action because it has been unable to negotiate a settlement for the last decades on how to allocate water between Florida, Georgia and Alabama.

Florida's step is an escalation in years of litigation.

Florida has previously sued the Army Corps of Engineers, which manages the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river system. But a recent ruling went against Florida in its push to limit Georgia's withdrawals.

Florida's oyster industry has neared collapse in the last two years because of reduced water flow from the Apalachicola into the Gulf of Mexico and because of drought.

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