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“Georgia’s strategy…is a Hail Mary Pass”

April 5, 2010

That’s according to one Atlanta water consultant who was quoted by the New York Times in March describing Senators Isakson’s and Chambliss’ attempt to make Lake Lanier’s water problem a national problem.  This dynamic duo has been working to marshal evidence that Corps reservoirs like Lanier all across the country are not authorized to, but do indeed, provide municipal water supplies.  See my previous post for an introduction to Georgia’s reservoir reauthorization quest, former Rep. Nathan Deal’s participation, and the initial fallout.

According to the NYT and a widely circulated AP release, the duo identified reservoirs that were not initially authorized to provide water supply.  But the devil is in the details.  Under the terms of subsequent legislation – namely the Water Supply Act (1958) – specific municipalities have “valid deals” and the right to access the named Corps’ reservoirs.  The Senators are, of course, reacting to Judge Paul Magnuson’s July 2009 ruling that Lake Lanier was never authorized for water supply and the fact that the Corps did not follow the Water Supply Act when allocating water to metro Atlanta communities.  Georgia is appealing this decision.

It’s worth emphasizing that Alabama’s, Florida’s, and Georgia’s tri-state water war resolution is spurring national attention for good reason.  The Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (ACF) river basin is an interstate affair; it involves numerous private and federal electrical generation facilities and dams; the stakeholders include irrigation farmers, commercial fishermen, Riverkeepers, and millions of urban dwellers; and then there are the endangered species.  And to boot, this is all taking place in a humid region within a riparian legal framework.  While no two river basins are created alike, how we reach an ACF compact will affect future interstate river negotiations in the Coosa, Savannah, and Catawba basins.

I’ll also take this moment to remind readers that the Georgia River Network and the Georgia Water Coalition (GWC) believe reauthorization and reallocation of the water from Lake Lanier should be a central component in planning the region’s future water supply.  But let’s establish a tri-state compact first and then take one reservoir reauthorization at a time.  Read more about the GWC’s position on, and solutions for, the tri-state water war here.

Finally, if you would like to see what Congress’ think-tank thinks on this matter, check out the Congressional Research Service report mentioned in the NYT.

-Chris Manganiello

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