U.S. Water News Online
ATLANTA -- Georgia negotiators in tri-state river-sharing
talks say a settlement appears closer than ever, although it would
mean some hydropower production and commercial barge traffic on the
Chattahoochee River would be curtailed.
A key portion of agreement -- an assurance of enough water to fuel
metro Atlanta's growth for the next 30 years -- is very close, based
on revised numbers proposed by Florida to share the
Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river basin, Georgia officials said.
``We're really encouraged by the action taken by Florida,'' said
Bob Kerr, Georgia's chief negotiator.
Kerr said the plan would require a change in the way the four big
federal reservoirs on the Chattahoochee -- lakes Lanier, West Point,
Walter F. George and Seminole -- have been operated by the U.S. Army
Corps of Engineers.
Lake Lanier, northeast of Atlanta, for instance, would be
maintained at a higher and more stable level than it has been since
it was built in the 1950s. However, some hydropower production and
commercial barge traffic on the lower portion of the basin would have
to be curtailed.
Harold Reheis, head of Georgia's Environmental Protection
Division, said Lanier's higher water levels would help guarantee
adequate water supplies for Atlanta during future droughts.
``We have to operate the reservoirs as if a drought were always
imminent,'' he said. ``We can't predict when a drought will begin or
when it will end.''
The three states have scheduled a negotiating session on June 14
and very likely'' will sign a water-sharing agreement for the ACF
basin, the officials said. Georgia and Alabama already have reached a
tentative settlement on sharing the waters of the
Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa river basin, contingent on an agreement on
Alabama officials want enough water from both river basins for its
own growth. Florida leaders are demanding adequate water flows to
protect its oyster industry in Apalachicola Bay.
Once the states sign the water-sharing formulas, the public will
have 60 days to comment on the plans. The federal representative in
the negotiations also will have 255 days to determine if the plans
are compatible with federal laws and regulations. If they are not, he
has the power to veto the agreements.
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