U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), a member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, today announced Senate approval of legislation requiring the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to report how the water within the Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa and Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basins is currently being allocated. This language is included in the Fiscal Year 2010 Energy, Water, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill. Following today’s action by the Senate, the legislation will now go to the President for his signature.
“This legislative provision simply provides an understanding of how the water within the Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa and Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basins is currently being allocated,” said Shelby. “On July 17th, a federal district court ruling made clear that Atlanta and the Corps of Engineers can no longer substitute their will and judgment for that of Congress. I look forward to working expeditiously with my colleagues in Alabama, Florida, and Georgia to ratify an equitable water allocation agreement that has been properly reached among the governors of each state and therefore is worthy of Congressional consideration and approval.”
In 1945-46, Congress authorized the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to construct a dam and reservoir on the Chattahoochee River north of Atlanta for flood control, hydropower generation, and navigation support. Under the Water Supply Act of 1958, Congress made clear that it must approve any major structural or operational changes to the project. In 1990, Alabama and Florida filed suit, alleging that the Corps had violated the intention of Congress by allocating water for other purposes in Atlanta without congressional approval, thereby causing undue harm downstream in Alabama and Florida.
U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson ruled in favor in Alabama and Florida, affirming the states’ argument that operational changes allocating water for the Atlanta water supply requires Congressional approval. Judge Magnuson’s decision orders a freeze on current water withdrawal levels from the reservoir for three years to allow for Congressional action on the matter. Absent such action, withdrawal levels will return to the much lower levels of the 1970’s.
The Court’s decision follows a federal appellate court ruling in 2008 that invalidated a secret agreement between Georgia and the Corps seeking to allocate an even larger share of the water in the reservoir to Atlanta. Further, on September 11, 2009, the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, Jo-Ellen Darcy, acknowledged in a letter to Senator Shelby that Atlanta drinking water is not an authorized use of water from the ACF river basin.