Georgia pushed in two directions in August aiming for a resolution – in its favor – of its long-running water battles with Alabama and Florida.
Those efforts have had increased urgency since July 17, when U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson (sitting in Minnesota) delivered a ruling which threatens to cost Georgia much of the water its relies on for the Atlanta metro area. Lake Lanier, a water body in Georgia, for decades has been a source of water for metro Atlanta but also for parts of Alabama and Florida—it feeds rivers which run through those states—and the three states have battled for years over the diversions. The water has been diverted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Alabama filed a federal lawsuit over the matter in 1990, and Florida subsequently joined. Magnuson said that if by the summer of 2012 no tri-state agreement has been reached, or congressional action taken, then a large part of the Lake Lanier water will have to sent downstream.
Since then, Georgia has been moving on both the negotiation and congressional fronts.
On August 17, members of the Georgia congressional delegation met with Governor Sonny Perdue to consider their options. Representative Sanford Bishop was quoted as saying, “It’s a very, very politically sensitive type of issue. And we’ve got to handle it very, very carefully to make sure that we do no harm to other states who are similarly situated.”
In this case, Georgia is in the position of being an upstream, headwaters state, which – depending on how legislation is crafted – could give with some alliance with other headwaters states, as such Colorado, Minnesota or Montana. But that could also align it against downstream states, which tend to be both larger and more numerous.
Members of the delegation also pointed out the political need of trying to develop legislation that could win support from the Alabama and Florida delegations, which could be crucial since members of Congress often are unwilling to tak sides in regional disputes.
On the other front, Perdue has asked Michael Garrett, president of Georgia Power, to serve as the state’s top negotiator. Garrett said on August 20 that he was hopeful an agreement can be reached at least with Alabama, and possibly a second dispute with Florida (concerning the Chattahoochee River) might be resolved separately.