Alabama challenges federal water rules

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The state of Alabama — under the auspices of Gov. Robert Bentley, who announced the move Thursday — is suing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, saying that its operating manual governing the Corps’ stewardship of the Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa River Basin is inadequate to meet the needs of Alabamians.

In a 30-page complaint — available in full here — counsel for the governor’s office alleges the feds “failed to adequately address valid comments and objections made by Alabama and other stakeholder commenters in response to the draft versions” of the manual with regard to the Allatoona Project, a water project spanning much of eastern Alabama and  managed by the Corps of Engineers.

“The flow of water through the ACT Basin is vital to the economy and environment of Alabama,” Bentley said in a statement Friday.

“This manual will decrease the quality of water in our State, which will hurt our citizens. It will also adversely impact the flow of water into our State. It prioritizes water recreation on lakes in Georgia at the expense of hydroelectric power generation in Alabama, which will hurt jobs and the economy. Therefore, on behalf of Alabama, I am requesting that the federal government adopt a lawful manual that respects Alabama’s interests.”

The complaints calls for the federal government to “set aside” the manual — i.e. disregard it — as well as to revise other federal documents relating to the ecologically sensitive river basin, pay the state’s court filing and attorney’s fees, and to “award other relief as the Court may deem just and proper to protect Alabama’s interests.”

The move is supported by several regional groups affiliated with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, including the influential Business Council of Alabama, which applauded the move on Friday.

“The lawsuit alleges that the new manual allows the federal government to diminish the quality of water in Alabama to the detriment of all Alabama citizens and to allow the unlawful hold of water at a Georgia dam for the purposes of promoting recreation there rather than releasing the water so it can generate hydroelectric power in Alabama and serve other important purposes the law requires,” the BCA said.

“In taking these drastic steps, the federal government has failed to issue an accurate environmental-impact statement that discloses the substantial harm its actions will cause to the Alabama environment, the lawsuit alleges.”

The suit is proceeding in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

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