U.S. Water News Online
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- After failing to reach a
water-sharing agreement with Alabama and Georgia, Florida said it
will ask the courts to decide how much water each state should
receive from the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin.
The issue concerns the water needs of metropolitan Atlanta, farms
in southwest Georgia and the oyster-rich Apalachicola Bay in Florida,
which supplies 90 percent of Florida's oysters and 10 percent of the
The three states' governors had approved the tentative agreement
in July, setting a recent deadline for a final plan. Instead of
extending the deadline, Florida decided it would leave the
water-sharing decision to federal courts and the U.S. Supreme Court.
The states have debated for five years on how to solve the
Florida said it backed out of the deal because it would not have
received enough water.
``I believe that over time, with the impartial oversight of our
highest court, we will be able to better protect our river and bay
than to compromise further,'' said David Struhs, secretary of the
Florida Department of Environmental Protect, in a telephone
``In the end, Florida was unable to accept only minimum flows,
plus whatever else the upstream states were not able to consume or
store. This would place too great a risk on one of the most naturally
productive rivers and bays in the United States,'' Struhs said.
As a result, the issue will have to be settled in three federal
court lawsuits in Alabama, Georgia and the District of Columbia.
Officials also said they will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to determine
this fall how much water each state should receive.
Trey Glenn, director of Alabama's office of water resources, said
that state's officials are disappointed by Florida's action.
``Florida's been threatening for years now to pull the plug. It
seems like their recent proposal and ultimatum was a way to do
that,'' he said. ``It's extremely unreasonable for them to expect
Gov. (Bob) Riley to sign an agreement that didn't meet the needs of
the state of Alabama.''
Dan McLagan, a spokesman for Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, also
``Florida has kind of gone on their own way,'' he said.
The Florida Legislature has appropriated $50,000 to begin the
legal battle, Struhs said.
Florida Gov. Jeb Bush had voiced reservations about the tentative
agreement over how much water Georgia would leave in the
Chattahoochee River. It joins the Flint River at Lake Seminole to
flow into Florida's Apalachicola River and into Apalachicola Bay.
``Governor Bush is committed to protecting Florida's interests in
this matter and we will continue our efforts to secure the future of
Florida's Apalachicola Bay and the Panhandle,'' spokeswoman Alia
In a letter sent to Bush, Riley said he could not agree to
Florida's plan because it deviates too much from a preliminary
agreement signed last month by the three states.
Perdue has asked Florida to back down on its demands for a say in
how much water Georgia can take out of its own lakes to quench the
thirst of a growing Atlanta.
In a letter to Bush, Perdue said he was ready to break off the
water-sharing talks unless Florida allows Atlanta to take as much
water as it needs for the next 10 to 20 years.
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