Water wars verdict could cost Georgia billions


Georgia’s economy could take an $18 billion hit if Florida prevails in the upcoming “water wars” trial, according to court documents filed Thursday.

Yet Florida, which is suing Georgia for hogging too much Chattahoochee and Flint river water, appears to be aiming its legal guns at the farmers in Southwest Georgia who use copious amounts of river and groundwater to grow cotton, peanuts and other crops.

And, despite months of confidential meetings between the two states’ governors and their attorneys, the trial appears set to begin Oct. 31 — Halloween — in Portland, Me.

Florida sued Georgia two years ago claiming the upriver state disproportionately hordes water to the downstream detriment of oystermen, endangered mussels and the overall economy. Georgia’s two rivers meet at the Florida line to form the Apalachicola River.

Florida beseeched the U.S. Supreme Court to decide the case and to “equitably apportion” the rivers’ waters. The high court appointed a special master, Ralph Lancaster from Portland, to hear it. Once Lancaster rules, expected early next year, the Supreme Court will likely weigh in.

Florida wants to keep Georgia water withdrawals at 1992 levels when metro Atlanta was home to only half as many people as it is today. Georgia appears to have the upper legal hand. Florida must first prove that Georgia is to blame for its water woes, in particular the damage done by a low-flowing Apalachicola River to oysters and the oyster industry.

Georgia, in its pre-trial briefing filed Thursday, said Florida’s case is without merit serving only to “jeopardize” the state’s economy.

“Accepting Florida’s proposed remedies would thus inflict massive economic injury on Georgia’s farmers and Atlanta’s water supply, without providing any measurable benefit to Florida,” the filing reads. “

Water-using industries across Metro Atlanta — chicken processors, Lockheed Martin, landscapers, utilities — contribute $13.5 billion to the region’s economy, according to Georgia’s legal brief, and employ 50,000. Cotton, peanuts, corn and other crops throughout the Chattahoochee, Flint and Apalachicola regions carried an economic impact of $4 billion.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Georgia Politics

Democrats aim for suburbs in Alabama ahead of Deep South votes
Democrats aim for suburbs in Alabama ahead of Deep South votes

Amanda Wilson has watched with a mix of glee and uncertainty as the imposing homes along this wealthy suburban town’s zigzagging streets has suddenly sprouted Democratic signs. “I’m a blue dot in a big red state,” said Wilson, a 64-year-old retiree. “But I don’t feel as lonely anymore.” Republican U.S. Senate...
Georgia Senate meetings will be live-streamed after Thanksgiving
Georgia Senate meetings will be live-streamed after Thanksgiving

Beginning the Monday after the Thanksgiving holiday, Georgians who are interested in watching state senators at work can live-stream committee meetings being held in the statehouse. Members of the Georgia Senate on Friday held a mock committee meeting led by Senate President Pro Tem David Shafer, R-Duluth, to test out the new wiring and equipment....
Atlanta mayor under fire amid debate over illegal immigration
Atlanta mayor under fire amid debate over illegal immigration

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed is drawing fire from multiple sides in the hot-button debate over illegal immigration after recently announcing the city had joined a nationwide effort in finding legal help for immigrants facing deportation. When Reed announced the city’s new policy this month, he called Atlanta a “welcoming city that stands up...
The Right points to Franken as a symptom of the Left’s hypocrisy
The Right points to Franken as a symptom of the Left’s hypocrisy

The Right has always questioned Franken’s qualifications for the Senate. The revelations of sexual misconduct by the Minnesota  Democrat have added fuel to the fire. A roundup of editorials Friday takes a look at the issue. From The Boston Herald: It’s “physician heal thy self” when it comes to sexual harassment in Congress...
In the light of the news about Al Franken, will the Left own its own sexual misconduct issues?
In the light of the news about Al Franken, will the Left own its own sexual misconduct issues?

Will Sen. Al Franken’s conduct call into question Democrats’ commitment to championing women who have been sexually harassed? A roundup of editorials Friday takes a look at the issue. The Week: Do the Democrats take sexual harassment seriously? We’ll see. From The New Yorker: As the two apologies from Franken show, men still need...
More Stories