U.S. Water News Online
MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- Alabama will ask for a full appeals
court review of a three-judge panel's decision allowing the Atlanta
area to use more water from Lake Lanier and the Chattahoochee River
than allowed under earlier orders, Attorney General Troy King said.
The ruling by the panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals
reversed earlier decisions by an Alabama federal district court,
which blocked metro Atlanta from getting additional water that state
and local officials say is necessary for Atlanta to accommodate
The ruling by the three-judge panel, which sends the case back to
the Alabama court, could allow Atlanta to take up to 50 percent more
water from the lake and river. If the ruling stands, Atlanta
eventually would be able to take up to 537 million gallons of water a
day out of the lake and river below it.
"These are three judges in the 11th Circuit. We'll ask for a full
11th Circuit," King told The Associated Press. "We'll be asking them,
of course, to reverse what they did. The state's interest in this
case is very significant."
As Atlanta continues to ladle more water for its own expansion,
Alabama will become less desirable for future industries, King said.
He also said the nuclear plant near Dothan relies on the water for
its cooling system and the local communities rely on the water to
"We are prepared to exhaust every legal avenue available to the
state of Alabama to protect what is the most basic and essential
element, which is water," King said.
According to Georgia environmental officials, the region safely
could take up to 705 million gallons a day. But that estimate has not
been scientifically verified and some experts disagree.
Alabama and Florida do not want metro Atlanta to have the
additional water. The three states, which share the Chattahoochee,
have been fighting over the river since 1990.
Adam Snyder, executive director of the Alabama Rivers Alliance,
said the 11th Circuit's decision "could have a devastating impact on
water quality and quantity in Alabama."
"Atlanta's thirst for water can have long-term effects on
downstream stockholders both economically and environmentally," he
said. "This will lower the amount of water available for critters and
humans downstream of the Atlanta metro area. That means less drinking
water, less water to recreate in and diminished habitat."
Snyder said he expects the case eventually to reach the Supreme
Court. King wouldn't speculate on how far the case may advance,
except to say his office would be "aggressive" in protecting
Alabama's share of the water
At the lower end, Florida wants enough water in the river to serve
future development and to ensure the health of Apalachicola Bay, a
rich estuary and commercial fishery.
Even without further legal wrangling, Georgia officials estimate
it could take one or two years before metro Atlanta gets its
guaranteed water supply. Before then, a federal environmental review
is required to determine if there could be any harmful effects.
"We anticipate that the environmental review will show that water
storage contracts are sound from an environmental and economics
standpoint," Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue's spokeswoman, Heather
In an e-mailed response to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution,
Cragin Mosteller of the Florida Department of Environmental
Protection said: "This is just one step of many in a long process.
And (Florida) will continue to pursue our legal options for
protecting the economic and environmental value of Apalachicola River
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