State files appeal in water case

Atlanta Business Chronicle – by Dave Williams Staff Writer

Lake Lanier was intended as a water supply for metro Atlanta from its inception, the state of Georgia contends in its appeal of a federal court ruling that threatens to cut off most of that water.

The appeal, filed Thursday with the U.S. Court of Appeals in Atlanta, argues that U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson misinterpreted the intent of Congress in authorizing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to build the federal reservoir in 1946.

In ruling last summer that Lake Lanier was never intended as a regional water supply, Magnuson gave Georgia until July 2012 to reach a water sharing agreement with Alabama and Florida governing the Chattahoochee River system.

Otherwise, under his order, water allocations from Lanier would be rolled back to levels not seen since the mid-1970s.

“When Congress authorized the Corps to build Buford Dam, it approved plans specifically stating that releases would be made to provide water supply to metropolitan Atlanta and that such releases would increase as the area developed,” Georgia’s lawyers wrote.

The state’s appeal went on to argue that even if the judge was correct in his conclusions, his order metes out excessive punishment to metro Atlanta water customers.

“The order reaches far more broadly than is necessary to rectify any violation of those statutes,” according to the appeal. “It ignores the substantial likelihood that the Corps would be able to meet some (even if not all) of Atlanta’s current and future water needs and prevents the Corps from examining that possibility.”

While the appeal unfolds, Georgia’s lawyers are continuing to negotiate with their counterparts from the other states on a water allocation deal.

A third prong in Perdue’s water strategy, legislation mandating water conservation in Georgia, passed the General Assembly last month and is awaiting the governor’s signature.