clear
Tuesday May 31st, 2016 10:54AM

Ga. asks Supreme Court to reject Fla. water suit

By The Associated Press
SAVANNAH - Attorneys for the state of Georgia have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to stay out of the latest legal battle in its 24-year fight over water rights with neighboring Florida.

Georgia filed its response last week to Florida's request for the high court to intervene in deciding how they share water that flows across the state line where the Chattahoochee and Flint rivers merge to form the Apalachicola River. Florida officials said in an October complaint their state needs immediate relief as growing water consumption by metro Atlanta threatens Florida's oyster fishery.

``Florida has brought its case against the wrong party, in the wrong court, and at the wrong time,'' the Georgia lawyers wrote in their legal response.

The river system at the heart of the dispute serves Georgia, Florida and Alabama. The three states have been embroiled in legal battles since 1990 over how to share the water supply. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2011 ordered the Army Corps of Engineers, which uses dams to control flows in the river system, to work on a new water allocation plan for the region.

Georgia officials argue the Supreme Court's involvement would disrupt the work already underway by the Army Corps that could finally settle the tri-state water wars. And they contend Florida hasn't met the high standard required for the nation's highest court to hear a new lawsuit that didn't originate in the lower courts.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott decided last fall to push ahead with the lawsuit following the near-collapse of the oyster industry in Apalachicola Bay and after federal officials declared a fishery disaster for oystermen on the Gulf Coast. Florida officials blamed Georgia's ``unmitigated consumption of water,'' primarily by metro Atlanta, for upsetting the balance of fresh and salt water that oysters need in order to thrive.

The complaint before the Supreme Court seeks to limit Georgia's water consumption to 1992 levels.

``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,'' Scott said when Florida filed its legal action last October.

Georgia says the Army Corps ultimately controls how much water flows into Florida via the Woodruff Dam near the state line and the federal agency should be allowed to finish its allocation plan, which could be ready next year, before the courts take any further action.

``Usually you would say we need an extra amount of water to protect our interest,'' which would come from the Army Corps, said Judson Turner, director of the Georgia Environmental Protection Division. ``Just asking for a consumption cap on Georgia at 1992 levels doesn't necessarily deliver you one more drop of water at the state line.''

The long-running dispute hinges over withdrawals from Lake Lanier, a federal reservoir on the Chattahoochee River that provides water to metro Atlanta. In 2009, a federal judge ruled that metro Atlanta had little right to take water from the lake. He then ordered that metro Atlanta's water withdrawals would be drastically restricted unless the three states reached a settlement.

A three-judge panel from the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned that ruling in 2011, finding that metro Atlanta could use the reservoir for water with restrictions. The court ordered the Army Corps to study how much water the north Georgia region can take from the system.

Georgia officials insist Florida has failed to link Atlanta's water usage to the plight of oysters and say drought is more likely to blame. Florida officials say that assertion is contradicted by climate data on long-term rainfall.
© Copyright 2016 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
US stocks post sixth straight year of gains
U.S. stocks ended a strong 2014 with moderate declines Wednesday.
4:43PM ( 1 year ago )
Palestinians push ahead in pursuit of war crimes charges against Israel
Stung by a resounding defeat in the U.N. Security Council, the Palestinians announced Wednesday that they joined the International Criminal Court to pursue war crimes charges against Israel.
1:57PM ( 1 year ago )
Business News
Grass fire impacts rush hour traffic on 985
Rush hour traffic on I-985 was slowed by a grass fire Wednesay afternoon with one lane closed while firefighters fought the blaze.
10:19PM ( 1 year ago )
Judge denies motions to move, delay Tsarnaev trial
Lawyers for Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev asked a federal appeals court Wednesday to overturn a judge's decision to not move his upcoming trial out of state.
10:02PM ( 1 year ago )
Sheriff: Man shot 2 on I-85 because he wanted car
A 22-year-old man shot two people who stopped to give him a ride on Interstate 85 in South Carolina on Christmas Eve because he wanted their car to drive to Georgia, a sheriff said Wednesday.
5:21PM ( 1 year ago )
Local/State News
Motorcyclist arrested after high speed chase with Georgia State Patrol in Hall, Forsyth counties
A Kennesaw man faces drug and traffic charges after he allegedly led Georgia State troopers on a high speed chase through Hall and Forsyth counties Monday night.
7:20AM ( 3 hours ago )
DNR updates Memorial Day boating numbers, Georgia sees no fatalities
With only hours left in the Memorial Day Weekend, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources says no fatalities have been reported on the state's waterways during the busy holiday.
9:40PM ( 13 hours ago )
Georgia counties aim to lower numbers of locked-up juveniles
A national nonprofit that works to improve the lives of children believes the numbers of Georgia juveniles held behind bars can be reduced
9:05PM ( 13 hours ago )
Woman injured in Flowery Branch house fire
A woman suffered second and third degree burns during a house fire Monday evening in Flowery Branch.
7:40PM ( 15 hours ago )
Missing Gainesville woman ID'd as body found in Lake Lanier
The body found in Lake Lanier has been confirmed to be that of a missing Gainesville woman.
6:30PM ( 16 hours ago )