Allatoona water wars: Judge orders resolution to 36-year ordeal


The Cobb-Marietta Water Authority recently scored a small but significant victory in the ongoing water wars over who can withdraw water, and how much, from Allatoona Lake.

A judge ordered the Army Corps of Engineers to render a decision on a 1981 request from the Cobb-Marietta Water Authority to increase its allocation from the reservoir. 

That request was stalled for decades by legal challenges from the state of Alabama. Even so, the court ruled, the Corps’ foot-dragging is “precisely the type of unreasonable delay” the law is intended to protect against.

“In the end, the Corps has not merely deferred answering a request for water reallocation, but has refused, indefinitely, to address a request that it has been aware of since 1981,” the ruling reads. “The Corps has not projected any timetable for addressing the Georgia Parties' request or indicated that it plans to prioritize the request, nor has the Corps offered any assurance that it ever intends to reach a final decision.”

The judge ordered both sides to meet within the next 30 days to agree upon a mutually acceptable timetable, or submit to a court-ordered one.

The Corps is not, however, obligated to grant the Authority’s request for more water, merely to respond.

The judge sided with the Army Corps on two other claims included in the lawsuit, leaving in place the agency’s water control manual for the Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa river basin.

Glenn Page, the Authority’s general manager, welcomed the decision, but noted that not only could the Corps reject the proposed increase, but two pending lawsuits by the state of Alabama and the Alabama Power Company could affect any decision rendered. 

“My experience in these cases is that it’s hard to ever see an end,” he said. “There’s going to be a twist that affects something else.”

The Authority has another suit pending against the Corps over how it allocates water.

All these lawsuits are separate from the case currently before the Supreme Court in which Florida sued Georgia over its share of water flowing through the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint basin.

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