Jul 17 2009

Shelby Hails Water Wars Victory

Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) today welcomed a ruling in the tri-state water dispute by a federal district court in Jacksonville, Fla.

“Today’s ruling represents a huge victory for Alabama.  The Court made clear that Atlanta and the Corps 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 toward an equitable water allocation agreement worthy of Congressional consideration and approval.  It is imperative that we proceed to a fair resolution without delay.”    

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 approval, thereby causing undue harm downstream in Alabama and Florida.

Judge Paul Magnuson today ruled in favor in Alabama and Florida, affirming the states’ argument that such operational changes require 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.

Today’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.