A federal judge on Wednesday rejected arguments by Florida in the tri-state water dispute to allow the Endangered Species Act to be used to dictate water flow into the Apalachicola River.


The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

8:01 p.m. Wednesday, July 21, 2010


A federal judge on Wednesday rejected arguments by Florida in the tri-state water dispute to allow the Endangered Species Act to be used to dictate water flow into the Apalachicola River.


Senior U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson said he found no evidence that a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s biological opinion that is being used to support an interim water management plan was incorrect. Florida has said more water is needed to protect the Gulf sturgeon, the fat threeridge mussel and the purple bankclimber mussel.


Bert Brantley, a spokesman for Gov. Sonny Perdue, hailed the decision, saying it should help Georgia in its negotiations over a water-sharing plan with Florida and Alabama. "It allows us to negotiate a sharing agreement that doesn’t have to account for a forced, higher water flow to support endangered species," he said. "There’s plenty of water for all three states."


In a 26-page ruling, Magnuson also ruled against Georgia, saying the state did not have legal standing to challenge the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ interim water management plan.


A year ago, Magnuson ruled that it is illegal for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to draw water from Lake Lanier to supply much of metro Atlanta’s water needs. He gave the state three years to work out an agreement with Florida and Alabama over water resources or else withdrawals from Lanier would be reduced to mid-1970s levels.


Also Wednesday, Magnuson found that the Corps’ current plan to operate Lake Lanier was put together without proper environmental analysis and has been in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act. "The Corps’s rather cavalier attitude toward its duties under NEPA is distressing, to say the least," Magnuson wrote.


But because the operating plan expires in 2012, the judge said the Corps does not have to develop a new Environmental Impact Statement for "a plan that is destined to be replaced within two years."

Your RPAC Dollars at work
Ronnie Burrell
EMBOR Vice President Governmental Affairs

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