Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Governors to meet over tri-state water dispute

The governors of Alabama, Florida and Georgia likely won't have a proposed water-sharing agreement in hand next week when they meet to discuss the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river system, a Florida official said today.

The three states have been battling in federal court since 1990 over the river system, which is a source of drinking water for the metro Atlanta area. Florida depends on fresh water to maintain fish and wildlife along the Apalachicola River and the seafood industry at Apalachicola Bay.

Alabama Gov. Bob Riley and Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue requested a meeting of the governor after U.S. District Judge Paul A. Magnuson ruled in June that federal law does not authorize cities to withdraw water from Lake Lanier, the huge federal reservoir north of Atlanta. The governors announced Monday they will meet in Montgomery, Ala. on Dec. 15 to discuss the water dispute.

Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Michael Sole said today there is no draft water-sharing agreement.

"I don't expect a draft initially but I'm hopeful that we get progress on the 15th," Sole said at the Capitol after appearing before the Cabinet on unrelated issues.

"This is a good opportunity," he continued," for the governors to get together and re-engage dialogue both because of the court decision -- the Magnuson decision -- as well as where we are with regards to water." He pointed out that both Lake Lanier and the rivers have been full in recent months.

The states have been divided in the past over the use of computer models to predict how lack of rainfall will affect reservoir levels and flow in rivers. That's amplified disagreements about how much water to keep stored in reservoirs to protect against drought and how much to release for downstream needs.

Asked whether Florida's negotiating position has changed, Sole said, "I think we have been pretty reasonable in our recommendations and we look to continue to address what is a fair allocation of water and acknowledging a shared adversity."

"We acknowledge during times of drought there will be less water, but it is something that needs to be shared," he said.

(Story copyrighted by Bruce Ritchie and FloridaEnvironments.com. Do not copy or redistribute without permission.)

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