Georgia sues feds in escalating water wars in U.S. Southeast

Reuters News
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Posted: Nov 07, 2014 4:25 PM

By David Beasley

ATLANTA (Reuters) - Atlanta's growing thirst for water prompted Georgia officials on Friday to sue the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers over a request to tap more deeply into a lake critical to Alabama, the latest salvo in U.S. Southeast water wars also extending to Florida.

In the lawsuit, Georgia contested the Corps' newly released plan for Lake Allatoona, north of Atlanta, saying it did not address a state request to draw more water out of the lake that supplies the vast Atlanta suburbs with drinking water.

The Corps is dragging its feet “due to political pressure by the State of Alabama,” Georgia claims in its suit. Lake Allatoona is fed by a river basin that flows from Georgia through Alabama to Mobile Bay.

“It is regrettable but necessary that we must now ask the court to require the Corps to do its job and make a decision,” said Georgia's attorney general, Sam Olens, in a statement.

“We need to know how Allatoona Lake will be operated for water supply so we can plan for the future," he added. "That’s all we’re asking the Corps to do; put politics aside, make a decision, and let the chips fall where they may.”

Corps of Engineers spokesman Pat Robbins declined to comment Friday on the Georgia suit.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Atlanta, does not name Alabama as a defendant, although the two states have previously gone to court over related water disputes.

The suit marks the latest round in the escalating water wars between Georgia, Alabama and Florida.

Earlier this week, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear Florida’s suit over whether the Atlanta region's water use is hurting oyster beds and fisheries downstream on the Gulf Coast.

Florida blames its neighbor for siphoning too much water from a river basin, leading to the collapse of the oyster industry in Apalachicola Bay, which had produced 90 percent of the oysters sold in Florida and 10 percent of the country’s supply.

(Editing by Letitia Stein and Jim Loney)