One element of the ongoing fight over water between Georgia and its neighbors has been resolved.
Earlier this week, the state of Georgia and the Army Corps of Engineers signed a contract giving rights to some of the water in Lake Lanier to communities in the north metro area.
Though Gwinnett, Hall and Forsyth counties, the city of Cumming and the city of Buford have been pulling their water from Lanier, there hadn’t been any formal contract for them to do it before this week.
“Now we know it’s secure, it’s under contract, it’s permanent. And it’ll help carry us well into the future,” said Katherine Zitsch, managing director of natural resources at the Atlanta Regional Commission.
The contract they’ve now signed – for about $71 million not including interest, according to Zitsch – is for the state of Georgia to buy storage in the lake, meaning Georgia can use the water from its portion of the reservoir.
It’s the result of a 2011 appeals court decision that said metro Atlanta is allowed to use water from Lake Lanier. That overturned a 2009 ruling that would have stopped Atlanta from using the lake as a source of water.
The fights over the water that Georgia, Alabama and Florida share aren’t over, though.
One lawsuit in U.S. District Court in North Georgia is over how the Army Corps of Engineers manages the water.
And next month, Florida and Georgia are scheduled to argue in the U.S. Supreme Court over water use.