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Issue Position: Water

Issue Position

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Tri-State Water Issue

I have drafted and introduced legislation in an attempt to address this issue. I have supported Gov. Perdue's four-pronged strategy and agree that the governors, as the executives of the three states, must negotiate water allocations. I have taken several actions in support of the Governor of Georgia and the State of Georgia as a part of this strategy.

Background:

What is a water control plan?

The Corps operates a number of different reservoirs across river systems. Normally they conduct their operations under a water control plan -- a plan that identifies the objectives for managing the system (releasing and retaining water for different needs, such as navigation, water supply, and recreation).

What is an interstate water compact?

Interstate water compacts are the preferred way to allocate water among states that share river systems. Georgia shares the Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa (ACT) River Basin with Alabama. Georgia shares the ACF River Basin with Alabama and Florida.

Recent History of the "tri-state water dispute"

For decades, Georgia, Florida and Alabama tried to negotiate water compacts to determine the allocation of water in the Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa (ACT) and Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (ACF) River Basins between the three states. The failure to create water compacts resulted in the negotiations process breaking down into litigation. Unfortunately, neither a judicial mediator nor mediation efforts by the Secretary of the Interior have been successful.

Recent Developments:

On July 17, 2009, Judge Magnuson issued a ruling in Phase 1 of the Tri-State Water Rights Litigation , which concluded that water supply was not an authorized purpose for Buford Dam (Lake Lanier). Magnuson stayed the ruling for three years to give Congress time to authorize water supply for Lake Lanier, or Governors of the three states time to negotiate.

In response to Judge Magnuson's ruling, Sen. Isakson and I have asked the Corps of Engineers for information about water supply issues affecting reservoirs across the country. We've also worked on several pieces of legislation to address Georgia's water needs, including legislation to:

* authorize the Army Corps of Engineers to include the effects of current and future water supply withdrawals from Lake Lanier in the update of the water control manual for the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin.
* allow cities and counties who withdraw water from a federal reservoir to subtract the amount of water they return to the reservoir from their total withdrawal. Currently, local governments do not receive any credit for the treated water that they return to the reservoir.
* authorize Lake Lanier for the purpose of municipal and industrial water supply. On July 17, 2009, U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson ruled that Georgia must stop withdrawing water in three years from Lake Lanier for the metro Atlanta region's water supply unless it can get permission from Congress to do so. Magnuson's ruling says Lake Lanier wasn't authorized to provide the metro Atlanta region's water supply and that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been illegally reallocating water from Lake Lanier to meet metro Atlanta's water needs.
* authorize both Lake Lanier and Lake Allatoona for the purpose of municipal and industrial water supply.

Additionally, Sen. Isakson and I have consistently communicated with the Governor's office and have been supportive of his four-pronged strategy of "Appeal, Congressional Authorization, Negotiations and Contingency Planning."

On July 21, 2010, a year after Judge Magnuson's Phase 1 ruling, he issued a ruling in Phase 2 of the Tri-State Water Rights Litigation, in which he rejects Florida's claims that the Apalachicola River requires higher flows. Magnuson specifically cautioned the Corps against limiting the scope of the analysis in the ACF Basin to anything short of "all reasonable alternatives." The order further stated that "an Environmental Impact Study that does not at least consider the effects of current and future water supply withdrawals from Lake Lanier as well as other points in the ACF system is, for all intents and purposes, a useless document."

In response to the Phase 2 ruling Senator Isakson and I sent a letter to the Corps urging them to update the ACF water control manual in a way that accommodates any solution resulting from ongoing negotiations between the Governors of Alabama, Florida, and Georgia, consistent with Magnuson's most recent rulings and comments.

I will continue to do everything I can from a federal standpoint to ensure Georgia has its fair share of water supply.


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