USA - Georgia, Alabama agree to resolve Chattahoochee River water litigation
(The Center Square) — The governors of Georgia and Alabama have agreed with the United States Army Corps of Engineers that could end a years-long legal fight over water.
However, the fight's conclusion could be months away, as the agency's consideration of the proposal must first go through public comment and an environmental review.
If the Corps adopts the proposal, Alabama will dismiss its appeal following a one-year review period, ending the litigation. Alabama's lawsuit will resume if the Corps does not adopt the proposition.
"This agreement is a win-win for our states, with neither side sacrificing what is important to them," Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, said in a statement. "The Chattahoochee River is the lifeblood of southwest Georgia, and this proposal would give citizens and businesses certainty about the flow of water they need for business and leisure.
"Just as significant, adoption of this proposal would end the current issues related to water supply for metro Atlanta at Lake Lanier, which is crucial to the future of our State," Kemp added.
Under the agreement, the feds will consider operating dams and reservoirs "to achieve minimum water-flow objectives" in Columbus, Georgia, and Columbia, Alabama — two cities located along the Georgia-Alabama border on the Chattahoochee River. The agency would also maintain the minimum elevation at Lake Seminole near Bainbridge in southwest Georgia.
The two states say the agreement assures Georgia and Alabama residents who live and work in the Mid- and Lower Chattahoochee River Basin have sufficient water flow during droughts.
Officials said the proposed agreement should resolve litigation Alabama brought in 2017 challenging the Corps' operations in the region, including the federal agency's policy allowing Georgia to withdraw water near Atlanta. The states have been fighting over water issues since 1990.
"Alabama and Georgia have a lot in common. But we have spent a lot of time — and a lot of money on attorney fees — fighting in court over water," Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey said in a statement.
"This proposal is a big deal for Alabama as the Corps has never before set minimum water-flow objectives in the parts of the Chattahoochee that affect us," Ivey, a Republican, added. "It would provide Alabama with long-term assurances that, in times of drought, our citizens will be protected and our stakeholders will know how much water is coming their way."