George legislators are continuing to look at the idea of drawing more water from the Tennessee River on the state’s northern edge. On March 31, the George House unanimously passed a measure moving the state toward doing just that.
The House Committee on Natural Resources and Environment in March proposed new language for House Resolution 424, suggesting a look at feasibility of withdrawing more water from that sources.
Urging the performance of a feasibility study of the withdrawal, storage, and distribution of waters from a certain portion of the basin of the Tennessee River; and for other purposes.
WHEREAS, the need to develop alternative sources of water supply and storage for much of Georgia is an issue of considerable urgency, particularly in light of a decision by the United States District Court entered in 2009 which found that communities in Georgia now dependent on the waters of Lake Lanier for water supply may no longer depend on that supply after 2012, absent a settlement among the States of Georgia, Alabama, and Florida; and
WHEREAS, Lookout Creek in Dade County, Chattanooga Creek in Walker County, and West Chickamauga and South Chickamauga Creeks in Catoosa County have, by some estimates based on the last ten years of available data from the United States Geological Survey and other sources, combined average flows of at least 725 million gallons per day, all of which flow northward into the Tennessee River; and
WHEREAS, there also exist abandoned rock quarries in north Georgia that can and do fill with very large volumes of water, including one in Walker County that is reported to have a water storage capacity of at least 3 billion gallons (9,207 acre-feet) of water; and
WHEREAS, the right of way of a railroad, owned by the State of Georgia, passes through the property on which the Walker County quarry described above is located and runs southward to the vicinity of Rome; and
WHEREAS, it may be possible to withdraw water from such north-flowing tributaries which might otherwise go unused in this state, pump the water into such an abandoned quarry for storage, and distribute water from such storage by means of a pipeline to be laid on the railroad right of way and thence to areas of this state in need of additional water supplies;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES that the members of this body urge the Department of Natural Resources, the Water Supply Division of the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority, and private enterprises to study the feasibility of surface water withdrawal, storage, and distribution as described in this resolution.
The U.S. Supreme Court on January 25 killed the lawsuit pursued by the state of Mississippi against Memphis and its main utility, alleging improper use of ground water.
A statement from Memphis Light, Gas & Water:
The United States Supreme Court this morning denied the State of Mississippi’s petition to appeal its lawsuit brought against the City of Memphis and MLGW, and also denied Mississippi’s request to file an original complaint against the City of Memphis, MLGW and the State of Tennessee in the Supreme Court. The Court’s ruling ends the five year-long suit over the water contained in the underground aquifer that runs beneath both states.
In its suit, the State of Mississippi claimed that the City of Memphis and MLGW were taking more than their share of water from the underground interstate aquifer. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last year that Tennessee had to be included in any lawsuit regarding the use of the interstate water source and that the lawsuit could be heard only by the Supreme Court. In today’s rulings, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of MLGW, the City of Memphis and the State of Tennessee by rejecting both Mississippi’s attempt to appeal the Fifth Circuit’s decision and also Mississippi’s request to file a new lawsuit against MLGW, the City and the State of Tennessee.
Memphis Mayor A C Wharton responded to the news: “This is huge not just because of the court case itself, but also because of the tangential economic implications. Frankly speaking, this lawsuit cast a cloud over our community given the invaluable role that water plays in economic development and industrial decisions. Having it dismissed ensures that this issue doesn’t block progress in a number of significant ways.” Wharton continued, “If there is a message to be remembered in this, it’s the way we went about bringing resolution to it all. With the input of stakeholders like MLGW and local government, we commissioned a study that showed how we use and conserve water. Ultimately this win vindicates our process.”
The Tennessee Valley Authority in August decided to kill a program allowing for trade not in water use but in access to water along the Watts Bar Reservoir, located in Roane County.
Tennessee is a riparian state, so that property owners along the reservoir generally have access rights to the reservoir along their property. The TVA set up a program allowing those property owners to trade access rights.
However, the Knoxville News-Sentinel reported in 2008 that questions had arisen about a trade involving a group of developers who were closely tied to a member of Congress, Health Shuler, of North Carolina. No legal or ethical violations were alleged, but concerns about conflicts of interest were raised.
The city of Crossville, Tennessee, has proposed a one-time $500,000 purchase of limited water rights from Lake Tansi, one of several lakes near the city and one used for lakeshore homes and recreation. The plan has drawn some concern from lake property owners and others, and response to it appears uncertain.
Under certain conditions, the city would pump as much as 5,000 gallons a minute to its water filtration system. The city would use the water only when a drought is declared by the federal government, during wet winter periods and to make up water losses during a period of dam reconstruction at Meadow Park lake.
Residents along the lake expressed concern about recreation and property values if water is drawn down too far.
[Crossville (TN) Chronicle, July 7]
The Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on June 5 threw out a challenge by the state of Mississippi to aquifer water use by the city of Memphis and the Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division – but not on the merits of the challenge, but because Mississippi had not added the state of Tennessee to the lawsuit.
Because the case stretches across state lines, the state governments need to be included, the court said.
In a summary in the case of Jim Hood et al v. City of memphis et al, the court said, “In this lawsuit, the state of Mississippi seeks damages from the City of Memphis and Memphis Light, Gas and Water, for the alleged conversion of groundwater in the Memphis Sands Aquifer. The district court dismissed Mississippi’s lawsuit without prejudice, holding that Tennessee is an indispensable party to the suit and that the court was without power to join Tennessee. We AFFIRM.”
The underlying situation, as the court describe it: “The Aquifer is located beneath portions of Tennessee, Mississippi, and
Arkansas. There is no interstate compact governing use of the Aquifer’s water, and thus no specific volumes of groundwater from the Aquifer have been apportioned to Mississippi, Tennessee, or Arkansas. The Aquifer is the primary water source for both DeSoto County, Mississippi, and the city of Memphis, Tennessee, which lies just across the state line from DeSoto County. Mississippi seeks past and future damages, as well as equitable relief, related to Memphis’s allegedly wrongful appropriation of groundwater from the Aquifer. Mississippi alleges that part of the groundwater that Memphis pumps from the Aquifer is Mississippi’s sovereign property and that the state must therefore be compensated.”
An independent view on the case has been posted at Waterwired.