High Court Refuses to Hear Georgia Water Petition

The U.S. Supreme Court on Jan. 12 delivered a major victory to Alabama in the long-running water war litigation, according to Alabama Gov. Bob Riley.

The Supreme Court denied a petition by Georgia to review a key legal ruling in favor of Alabama and Florida that was issued by a federal appellate court in Washington, D.C.last year.

“Today’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court confirms that federal law does not permit on">Atlanta to take more and more water from Lake Lanier to the detriment of downstream interests in Alabama and Florida,” said Riley. “Georgia tried to pull off a massive water grab, and this decision makes clear that Georgia’s actions were in blatant violation of federal law.”

In February 2008, the U. S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled that a secret settlement agreement between Georgia and the Corps of Engineers was illegal under federal law. The secret agreement would have reallocated a large portion of Lake Lanier to allow vastly increased water supply consumption from that federal reservoir by Atlanta. Had the secret agreement been approved, it would have had devastating consequences to the downstream states of Alabama and Florida.

 Last August, Georgia filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court asking that it overturn the ruling by the D.C. Circuit. Alabama, Florida, and the Corps of Engineers opposed that petition. While the Jan. 12 ruling closes the door on Georgia’s effort to validate its secret agreement to expand its water-supply use of Lake Lanier, the ruling also sets a strong precedent to be applied in the ongoing effort by Alabama and Florida to have Atlanta’s current use of the lake declared illegal.

“After nearly two decades of litigation, this marks a key milestone because the legal framework governing the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin has now been conclusively determined,” said Riley. “The legal principle established in this case should now be applied to validate Alabama’s challenge to Atlanta’s current illegal consumption from the federal reservoirs in North Georgia.”

Riley also expressed his hope that the decision will provide a basis to resume negotiations for a comprehensive water-sharing agreement between Alabama, Florida, and Georgia.

“I hope that today’s decision will cause Georgia to reassess its position and provide a catalyst to reach a workable agreement on how the three states can share the water in the basin,” said Riley.

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