By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great local journalism.
Another jab in ongoing fight over water
Placeholder Image
Forsyth County News
Those of us hoping for inspired leadership from the Congress in resolving the never ending battle over the right to water in the tri-state river basins may be waiting a while longer for our wishes to be fulfilled.

The “what’s in it for my state” legislative saga took another twisting turn last week when an Alabama senator was successful in winning passage of a spending bill amendment demanding that the Corps of Engineers compile in 120 days a report on current water allocations for consideration by Congress.

To understand the importance, you have to know some of the history. Georgia, Florida and Alabama have been fighting for two decades over control of water resources in river basins that serve all three states, resources that include Lake Lanier. Litigation and mediation have failed to resolve the issue through the administrations of various different governors in each state.

Two years ago, the Corps sought to update the operational manual for Lake Lanier and two river systems at the heart of the debate, which have not been revised in more than 50 years. Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby authored an amendment to a federal allocation bill in 2007 that stopped the corps from doing so.

Now, the same senator has won passage for an amendment to this year’s allocation bill requiring the corps to submit a report on water usage in the basins, and to do so in 120 days, an exceptionally brief period of time considering debate over the issue has spanned 20 years.

Why is Shelby anxious for a report from the corps now, when he opposed that body’s updating of water planning documents just a couple of years ago? Because federal judge Paul Magnuson ruled in July that Lake Lanier was never intended to be a source of drinking water for the metro Atlanta area. Magnuson gave Georgia three years to reach an agreement with Florida and Alabama or to have Congress authorize Lanier as a source of drinking water.

Any report by the corps now is certain to show that existing use and allocations conflict with Magnuson’s draconian ruling.

So what does it all mean. Who knows?

At worst a Corps document drafted now with Magnuson’s ruling as a factor would weaken Georgia’s position at the negotiation table, and could lead to one-sided Congressional legislation that penalizes the state. At best, whatever document the Corps produces in 120 days is virtually worthless given the three years allotted by Magnuson for resolution of the issue.

Georgia Rep. Nathan Deal went on the record Thursday to say that spending “corps dollars calculating something that does not take into account the right of the people to drink the water that is in their state is unrealistic and is a true waste of federal money.” That is an assessment with which we would concur.

Even so, Shelby’s success in having the amendment win passage and the directive given to the corps do not bode well for Georgia as it fights for the right to continue using Lake Lanier and other waterways to meet its needs. The combatants in this heavyweight battle have been fighting for 20 long year-long rounds, and now the gloves are coming off with the scent of blood in the ring from a cut opened by the judge.