Governors to meet concerning water

Published 7:18 pm Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue announced Monday that he will meet with his two colleagues entangled in the water dispute in Montgomery, Ala., on Tuesday, Dec. 15.

Perdue, Alabama Gov. Bob Riley and Florida Gov. Charlie Crist are scheduled to meet on Tuesday beginning at 1:30 p.m. EST “to discuss the ongoing water dispute between the three states,” a news release stated.

The meeting will take place at the Wynfield Estate at the Wynton M. Blount Cultural Park in Montgomery.

Despite attempts to dismiss a judge’s ruling that said metro-Atlanta’s withdraws of water from Lake Lanier must stop within three years unless the municipalities receive approval from Congress, it was Perdue who urged the other governors to resume negotiations.

U.S. District Court Judge Paul Magnuson ruled in July that the original intent of Lake Lanier—which was not to supply water for Atlanta-metro area’s 4 million people—must be honored and future water withdraws must receive the approval of Congress.

“The Court recognizes that this is a draconian result,” Magnuson wrote. “It is, however, the only result that recognizes how far the operation of the (lake) has strayed from the original authorization.”

In early October, 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, saying, “No injunctive relief was ordered or intended by the court’s July 17, 2009, order.”

In the July ruling, Magnuson said the original intent of Lake Lanier—which was not to supply water for Atlanta-metro area’s 4 million people—must be honored and future water withdraws must receive the approval of Congress. The water withdraws must stop within three years unless the Atlanta-area municipalities receive approval from Congress.

The ruling stems from a 2003 water-sharing agreement with the Army Corps of Engineers that would have allowed Georgia to take far more water from Lake Lanier for its drinking supply over the coming decades. The deal would have allowed Georgia’s withdrawals to jump from about 13 percent of the lake’s capacity to about 22 percent.

Magnuson frowned upon Georgia’s continued litigation, saying an appeal would only delay and further complicate the resolution of the dispute.

U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss, both Republicans that represent Georgia, praised the announcement that the governors of Georgia, Alabama and Florida will meet to discuss the ongoing water dispute among the three states.

“I believe it is in the best interest of all parties to return to the negotiating table, and I’m pleased the governors have scheduled a time to begin discussions,” Isakson said in a news release. “I will work tirelessly to support Gov. Perdue’s efforts to reach a negotiated agreement that is in the best interest of all of our stakeholders in Georgia while at the same time respecting the interests and concerns of Florida and Alabama.”

Sen. Chambliss said, “This issue is best resolved between the three governors who have thus far not been able to agree on a solution. Their agreement to sit down is encouraging. I look forward to working with them as this process continues.”