U.S. Water News Online
MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- Alabama and Georgia began negotiating a
compromise plan Thursday for sharing water resources as the federal
government recommended ways for the two states to bridge their
For the first time, the federal government gave guidance to the
states on how they can conclude their years-long dispute over the
Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa river basin.
``We got down to some hard bargaining,'' said Lindsay Thomas,
federal commissioner of the ACT and Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint
compact. ``We're letting them (the states) know what our areas of
Alabama officials say Georgia takes too much water from rivers
that flow into neighbor states. But Georgia, with its booming
population in metro Atlanta, wants to make sure it has enough water
for future growth.
The proposed compromises are technical in nature -- one of the
main sticking points is finding a formula on how much water should be
distributed from lakes, rivers and reservoirs downstream to cities.
The federal suggestions, laid out in a 17-page document Thursday,
guided the states on flow and reservoir levels, compensation for
hydropower losses, logistics, congressional approval and gathering
the public's input.
Negotiations had stalled since last summer until they picked up
again over the last month.
The states have to agree on how much water is available for
drinking, industry, recreation, and other purposes for the next 30
``There are more areas of agreement than disagreement,'' said Jim
Campbell, alternate commissioner for Alabama. ``This is a significant
move in the direction of having both states and federal agencies
getting down to specifics.''
The states have a Jan. 15, 2002, deadline to find a solution, but
the time limit probably will be extended as it has been many times
before, Campbell said.
``It's dangerous for us to all of a sudden reach for a trump card
that may end this,'' Thomas said.
The federal commission isn't yet ruling out any proposals or
evaluating the merits of specific flow targets or reservoir levels,
according to the document. Instead, its role is to outline the areas
that need work and set an agenda for reaching an agreement.
``The purpose ... is to head off a possible train wreck sometime
in the future,'' said John Harrington, who represented the Department
of the Interior at the meeting.
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