U.S. Water News Online
ATLANTA -- Georgia has sued the U.S. Army Corps of
Engineers over its management of Lake Lanier, the primary source of
drinking water for much of the exploding Atlanta region.
The federal court suit seeks to force the Corps to give top
priority to managing the reservoir for water supply and less weight
to managing it for recreation and hydroelectric power generation.
Gov. Roy Barnes said the action was spurred by a suit filed
against the Corps in Washington in December by a coalition of Georgia
electric utilities seeking increased use of the reservoir for power
Plaintiffs in that suit include several of the state's electric
utilities, among them Oglethorpe Power Corp. and the Municipal
Electric Authority of Georgia.
Georgia ``had no choice'' except to sue, Barnes said.
``This is a lawsuit to establish the rights of the state of
Georgia to use the waters within its boundaries,'' said former
Georgia Congressman Buddy Darden, a partner in the private law firm
chosen by Attorney General Thurbert Baker to handle the suit.
``This could very well be a precedent-setting case,'' he said.
Under the law creating the reservoir, the Corps of Engineers was
instructed to manage the lake for a variety of uses, including water
supply, navigation and recreation, but no priority was established
for which type of use should take precedence.
``It was not anticipated at the time that the various uses would
be in conflict,'' said Darden. ``We're seeking to establish water
supply as the priority use of the water.''
Tim Dugan, a Corps spokesman in Mobile, said the agency had no
Barnes said in a statement the state continues to work with the
neighboring states of Alabama and Florida to resolve long-standing
disputes over water sharing. The lawsuit will not impede those
negotiations, he said.
``We have discussed with Alabama and Florida our immediate need to
file our lawsuit and they understand that this is not intended to end
our efforts toward allocation formulas,'' he said.
Barnes said that about 2.7 million people in north Georgia obtain
their water supply from Lake Lanier and the Chattahoochee River -- a
number expected to grow to 4 million by the year 2030.
``The state cannot continue to grow ... unless it has a commitment
from the Corps, through water storage contracts, to maintain the lake
for water supply,'' he said.
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