Today's lake level: 1070.84
Your complete online news, information, and recreation guide to Lake Lanier
Sep. 19, 2020
11:18 pm


Florida requests oral argument water lawsuit

By Jane Harrison
Florida attorneys want another day in court to argue their case for cutting Georgia’s consumption of water that spills across the state line in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river basin.
The Sunshine State last month asked Special Master Paul J. Kelly, Jr. to consider hearing oral arguments in the lawsuit that has been simmering since Oct. 2013. Kelly, the second court appointed Special Master, has already told warring parties they have amassed sufficient evidence, but left open the possibility of an “additional non-evidentiary hearing.” However, his order did not label potential spoken presentations as “oral argument,” as Florida’s March 12 request did. As of late March, Kelly had made no public disclosure about whether he would allow a hearing.
The legal maneuvering stems from Florida’s accusations that Georgia consumes more than its share of water from the river system that starts in the North Georgia mountains and flows across the state line into Apalachicola. Lake Lanier is the largest of five reservoirs on the rivers. Florida blames Georgia for the collapse of oyster fisheries in Apalachicola Bay, which needs freshwater flow to nourish oyster beds. Georgia has responded that Florida’s own water practices were partly to blame and that cutting Georgia’s water use would thwart the Peach State’s economic growth.
The Supreme Court sent the case to Kelly in August 2019 after the initial special master denied Florida’s claims because Florida could not provide clear evidence that limiting Georgia’s water consumption would substantially remedy Florida’s situation. Special Master Ralph Lancaster concluded that because the U.S. Corps of Engineers controls water flow through the dams, a limitation on Georgia’s tap on the rivers would not necessarily pass more water down to Florida.
Kelly quickly told attorneys he had enough evidence to consider, but asked them pointed questions about Georgia’s water consumption on the Flint River, the volume of water Florida needs to ameliorate its problems in the Panhandle, and what conservation efforts Georgia has implemented. He also essentially asked for a cost-benefit analysis: how much would it cost Georgia to cut back and how much would it benefit Florida.
States completed responses and rebuttals in February.
Florida filed its latest request, stating it “is amenable to any argument format that the Special Master believes would be most helpful in resolving the case, but, given the magnitude of the record and number of issues … proposes allotting each party ninety minutes for an initial affirmative presentation, followed by an appropriate time for rebuttal and any further questions the Special Master may have.”
Georgia attorneys previously said they would support a non-evidentiary hearing to answer the special master’s questions.

Posted online 3/29/19
Copyright © 2011 Lakeside News. Internet Marketing Company: Full Media (CS)