Jul 09 2009

COMMITTEE ADOPTS SHELBY WATER WARS AMENDMENT

U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), a member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, today offered an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2010 Energy, Water, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill during the full committee markup of the legislation.  This language requires the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to report how the water along the Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa and Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basins is currently being allocated.  The amendment was agreed to and included in the appropriations bill.  Following today’s action by the Committee, the legislation will now go before the full Senate for consideration.

Senator Shelby’s prepared remarks are as follows:

“Thank you, Chairman Inouye.

“I would like to thank Chairman Dorgan and Senator Bennett for their assistance in crafting this bill.  I appreciate the support shown for Alabama’s priorities throughout the process.

“Mr. Chairman, I would like to highlight one issue of great importance to Alabama and would like to offer an amendment for consideration by the Full Committee.

“The amendment is very simple – it asks for the Army Corps of Engineers to provide an updated calculation of the critical yield for all federal projects in the Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa and Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basins.

“Mr. Chairman, in 1946, Congress authorized the construction of a federal reservoir in North Georgia for flood control, hydropower, and navigation. 

“However, as Atlanta’s population and water supply needs grew, so did their water allocation from this reservoir – to the detriment of those downstream in South Georgia, Alabama, and Florida.

“For the past two decades, litigation has been ongoing related to the operations along the two rivers that flow through Alabama, Georgia, and Florida. 

“The reservoir is not any one state’s water; it is federally owned and controlled. 

“It was built with federal taxpayer funds for certain authorized purposes, which never included the Atlanta-area water supply. 

“The water should be allowed to fairly flow along the river, both upstream and down.  It should be allocated equitably and fairly by the Corps of Engineers for benefit to all three states.

“In 2005, a written commitment was given by the former head of the Army Corps of Engineers that the Corps would not update its water control manuals, the policy governing the water allocations for the Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa and Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basins until litigation was complete. 

“Yet the Corps and the State of Georgia entered into a secret agreement that would have allocated all of the available water in this federal reservoir to Atlanta’s water supply with no concessions in return from Georgia. 

“That agreement was declared invalid by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. 

“The decision confirmed that federal law does not permit Atlanta to take more water from the reservoir to the detriment of downstream interests.

“Congress never intended for this federal reservoir to be used primarily for Atlanta’s water supply.  That conclusion has been reached by every court that has ever considered the issue.

“The Corps refuses to acknowledge either the Court’s ruling or the detrimental effects its decisions have upon those downstream from Atlanta.

“The Corps continues to push to update the water control manuals that determine the water allocation for the Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa and Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basins.

“Until a court decides the legal issues that have been driving the dispute for decades, all this action does is prolong reaching a solution.

“If the Corps were to begin updating the water control manuals now, before litigation has concluded, millions of dollars of taxpayer funds would be spent to update manuals reflecting current, illegal operations on the Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa and Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint Rivers.

“I appreciate the Committee remaining neutral on the issue of updating the water control manuals. 

“The Committee, like the Corps, should not take the side of one state over another. 

“This amendment simply provides an understanding of how the water along the Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa and Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basins is currently being allocated.

“Congress should not interfere in this litigation, and nor should the Corps.  This dispute will, and must, be decided by the Courts.

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman. At the appropriate time, I will request a roll call vote on my amendment.”