Thursday, July 22, 2010

Statement of Governor on Water Ruling Victory

Governor Sonny Perdue released the following statement today regarding Georgia’s victory in federal court yesterday in Phase II of the ongoing water litigation:

“Judge Magnuson’s rejection of Florida’s efforts to seek a judicial decree for higher downstream flows that were not supported by science or the law is a major victory for Georgia. Any kind of higher guaranteed flow for Florida would have put a strain on Georgia communities up and down the Chattahoochee River. We always felt the use of the Endangered Species Act was just a ruse to try and wring more water out of Georgia. Judge Magnuson recognized that and issued a common-sense ruling that allows the three states to continue meaningful talks. Importantly, the judge also insisted the Corps consider water supply when analyzing the needs of the river basin. With this ruling in hand, it is time for the three governors to come back together at the negotiating table and continue our ongoing efforts to finally reach a water-sharing agreement that benefits all three states. We stand ready and willing to engage at the earliest opportunity possible.”
Yesterday, U.S. District Court Judge Paul Magnuson issued a ruling in Phase II of the decades-old water conflict, rejecting all of Florida’s claims under the Endangered Species Act.

For years, Florida has argued that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers should be required to send increased water from Georgia down the Chattahoochee River for the Gulf sturgeon and two species of mussels. These unreasonable demands would hurt both Metro Atlanta and downstream Georgia communities, and Georgia fought the demands vigorously. In his ruling, Judge Magnuson rejected all of Florida's demands.

Judge Magnuson sided with Georgia against Alabama and Florida in stating that the Corps of Engineers should consider water supply from Lake Lanier in future analysis of needs in the river basins.

Judge Magnuson also agreed with Georgia that the water control manuals for the river basins should be updated, and that when they are, water supply should be considered. The judge is critical of the Corps for not updating water manuals for more than 20 years, but also placed blame on Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama for holding the nomination of the Assistant Secretary of the Army until he promised the Corps would not revise the water control manuals.

The Corps modified its operating plan (now called the RIOP) in late 2007 after negotiating sessions with the three governors and federal officials and seeing the devastating impact the drought had on Lake Lanier. Georgia and the Corps have contended that the RIOP provides more water than nature would provide during severe droughts, and, therefore, it could not be causing the long-term decline of the endangered species as Florida claimed. The court agreed. Georgia brought its own claim arguing, even further, that because the RIOP is beneficial to the species, there was no basis for a finding that it could ever harm even a single species in Florida. The court declined to rule on that claim of Georgia’s, but in light of the broader ruling rejecting Florida's claims, the result is a good one for Georgia.
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