Local

Georgia Asks US Supreme Court To Dismiss Water Wars Case

Drought conditions exposed Lake Lanier's lake bed in 2007. Florida claims metro Atlanta uses too much water from the Chattahoochee River.
Drought conditions exposed Lake Lanier's lake bed in 2007. Florida claims metro Atlanta uses too much water from the Chattahoochee River.
Credit John Bazemore / Associated Press
'Add to My List' icon 'Added to My List' icon Add to My List In My List

Georgia is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to dismiss the water wars case against it. The case is the latest in the decades-long battle between Florida and Georgia. (Alabama, too, but that state isn’t involved in this fight.) Florida is suing Georgia, claiming not enough water flows from Georgia’s Flint and Chattahoochee Rivers down to the Apalachicola Bay.

Georgia’s argument in its motion to dismiss is that the United States must be a party in the lawsuit, because the Army Corps of Engineers operates dams along the rivers.

“Thus, even if Florida were to prevail in its suit against Georgia,” the motion says, “the Supreme Court could not guarantee Florida what it considers to be an adequate flow of water into the Apalachicola River unless the United States can be bound by the Court’s decree.”

Georgia had already expressed this line of reasoning in its response to Florida’s complaint. In that document, Georgia denied that the Flint and the Chattahoochee join to form Florida’s Apalachicola River.  

Instead, “the Chattahoochee River and the Flint River flow into Lake Seminole and … the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers (the ‘Corps’) releases water from the Woodruff Dam into the Apalachicola River.”

Meanwhile both states are issuing subpoenas and gathering information for the case.

An attorney for Florida said that the state has already collected a million pages. An attorney for Georgia says the state has gathered about the same.

Georgia is requesting data from Florida environmental and business groups, cities, counties and universities. Florida is doing the same to Georgia groups. Some requests are for records dating back to 1976.

In a conference call last week, Ralph Lancaster, the special master who is managing the case, encouraged the states to try to work out an agreement before spending millions more dollars on the water war.

“I don’t know and I don’t intend to at this stage try to delve into the depths – and forgive that; that’s not intended as a pun – the depths of the morass that is being explored here,” Lancaster said, before explaining that he sees as a possible outcome, an order from the Supreme Court that makes neither state happy.