Alabama worried Florida, Georgia water settlement could impact its rivers

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Water wars between Florida and Georgia are heating up again over the directive by a U.S. Supreme Court special master ordering the states to reach a settlement that could have a substantial impact on Alabama rivers

As reported by POLITICO Florida’s Bruce Ritchie, Alabama is questioning a directive by special master Ralph Lancaster asking Florida and Georgia to settle its long-running water dispute, particularly over the suggestion the two states consider getting water from other sources during times of drought.

The debate between Florida and Georgia began in 2013 after the devastation of the Apalachicola Bay oyster bed, leading Florida to request the U. S. Supreme Court to intervene by placing a limit on Georgia’s water consumption.

Ritchie writes that Alabama, in a letter to the court last week, expressed concern that those “other sources” – particularly “the importation of water from outside the ACF (Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River) Basin” – include water from rivers flowing from Alabama into Georgia, such as the Coosa and Tallapoosa rivers.

Alabama has not been named in the case since Florida, and the court, acknowledged the only issue at hand is with Georgia’s water consumption.

However, Ritchie notes that Alabama feels that if water transfers are included in a settlement, the state would be forced to join the action. Also, Alabama argues that the court does not have authority to order water transfers from areas other than the ACF system.

Birmingham Attorney John C. Neiman Jr., representing Alabama, wrote in a letter to Lancaster: “If the court contemplates a decree authorizing transfers from interstate river basins flowing into Alabama as a result of settlement discussions or otherwise, Alabama would respectfully request that it first receive notice of that possibility and be given the opportunity to assert its interests in an appropriate way.

“To this end, Alabama is willing to participate in any negotiations between Florida and Georgia that address this issue, and will separately ask Florida and Georgia to include Alabama in any such negotiations,” Neiman concluded.

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