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Let the water wars begin: Florida to sue Georgia over water
Governor says Georgia's thirst destroying Apalachicola economy
posted Aug 13, 2013 - 5:46:47pm
Today, Gov. Rick Scott was joined by U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio to announce that the State of Florida will file a lawsuit in the U.S. Supreme Court to stop Georgia’s unchecked and growing consumption of water, which is threatening the economic future of Apalachicola.
Scott said the state would file the lawsuit in the U.S. Supreme Court in September. He made the announcement following a tour of Apalachicola Bay Tuesday with Rubio, several area legislators and other elected officials.
Scott said, “Because Georgia has not negotiated in good faith to fairly share the waters that flow between our two states, we are announcing today that Florida will bring suit in the U.S. Supreme Court next month to stop Georgia’s unchecked consumption of water that threatens the existence of Apalachicola fisheries and the future economic development of this region.
“This lawsuit will be targeted toward one thing — fighting for the future of Apalachicola. This is a bold, historic legal action for our state. But this is our only way forward after 20 years of failed negotiations with Georgia. We must fight for the people of this region. The economic future of Apalachicola Bay and Northwest Florida is at stake.”
Over the past 20 years, but without success, Florida and Alabama have each sought relief from harms caused by reduced flows and increased Georgia consumption in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (ACF) River Basins through legal challenges to the Army Corps of Engineers’ water management practices.
Florida now proposes to address the problem at its source — 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.
After years of attempting to negotiate an equitable apportionment of the waters that flow through the states, the collapse of the ACF Compact in 2003 left Florida and Alabama in the same disadvantaged position. Meanwhile, Georgia had improved its standing at the expense of its neighbors by staking increased claims to the river waters for itself.
Apalachicola River water levels are directly affected by upstream withdrawals from the Chattahoochee and Flint Rivers at all times — especially apparent during low-flow summer and fall seasons. The Metro-Atlanta area primarily gets its water from the Chattahoochee River with withdrawals totaling 360 million gallons per day.
Meanwhile, Georgia’s consumption is expected to nearly double to 705 million gallons per day by 2035, as Atlanta’s population and water consumption grow unchecked. That estimated daily consumption represents the approximate water volume of the entire Apalachicola Bay.
Historically low water levels brought about by Georgia’s excessive consumption have caused oysters to die because of higher salinity in the Bay and increased disease and predator intrusion. Oysters in the Bay account for 90 percent of Florida's oyster supply and 10 percent of the nation's oyster supply.
Gov. Scott’s Florida Families First budget provided $4.7 million for water-quality-restoration projects in the Apalachicola Bay estuary and oyster shelling and research to help the industry recover.
Scott also called for a Commercial Fisheries Failure declaration from the U.S. Department of Commerce last September to help the impacted area. The declaration was just granted by the federal government Aug 12.
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