Judge throws down water gauntlet

On June 17, a federal judge from Minnesota – Paul Magnuson – ordered the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to stop permitting the Atlanta area to draw water from Lake Lanier needed to meet the needs of the area’s six million residents. Let’s take a moment to let that sink in.

A non-elected official from a state far, far away, has issued what may very well turn out to be a fatal blow to our area’s survival. While some folks may shrug and dismiss the impact of the judge’s order – believing perhaps that something so draconian would never be implemented anyway – the judge’s order is real, and raises troubling questions.

First of all, Georgians should ask how we reached the point at which a non-elected judge is deciding what should be a political question determined by the citizens and their elected representatives. That question should best be put to the former governors of Georgia, Florida and Alabama who, for nearly 10 years were unable or unwilling to agree on a water-sharing agreement for the two water basins shared by the three states (but located predominately in Georgia).

Congress in 1997 even passed legislation to make the three governors’ job easier. I authored this “Tri-State Water Compact,” which was necessary because without it the U.S. Constitution prohibited states from making such arrangements.

So, what happened when the talks broke down in 2004? Exactly what I and others predicted more than a decade ago – the dispute has devolved to a relentless and costly legal battle among the three states and the Corps.

It is the Corps that manages the dams and reservoirs along the rivers in the shared water basins; most importantly, Buford Dam, which was constructed in the mid-1950s and created Lake Sidney Lanier. It is, of course, Lanier that supplies almost all of the water needs of our area (along with Lake Allatoona).

Unfortunately for those of us living in the Atlanta area, the federal legislation establishing the project did not include an exhaustive list of every conceivable use for the water that would be collected. Still, common sense and the basic legislation providing for the many Corps of Engineers water projects undertaken after World War II (of which Buford Dam was one), made clear that water supply was a primary purpose for the projects. For the past half century, everyone involved, including the Corps, clearly understood this and operated on that basis.

But this was not sufficient for the tunnel vision and policy views of Judge Magnuson. He chastised the Corps for permitting water withdrawals for a purpose and in amounts not expressly written into the legislation. The judge also waxed eloquent about how local governments permit “unchecked growth” because they don’t “plan” properly. The judge might as well have added this to his policy opinion: “Since Atlanta’s political leaders have failed to enact proper planned growth policies, I am going to force them to do so by cutting off their water supply.”

The judge magnanimously has given us three years within which to convince the Congress to pass a new law explicitly authorizing the Corps to do what it has been doing for over 50 years – allow citizens of the greater Atlanta area to use water from the reservoir they paid for. Of course, given that Alabama and Florida now have a federal court order as a negotiating chip, such a goal will be difficult to achieve; at least on any terms reasonably meeting our area’s water needs.

Appeals are certainly available; and a higher court may reverse Magnuson, using the history, common sense and clear legislative intent he ignored. And, Congress might surprise us and do the right thing. Still, we may want to keep in reserve (at least quietly) the views of an early U.S. president, Andrew Jackson, who successfully challenged the federal courts to try and “enforce” its decision if it could. Perhaps it’s time once again to consider challenging federal judges when they overstep their bounds.

98 comments Add your comment


July 27th, 2009
7:08 am

All this litigation for mussels down stream. It would seem common-sense would prevail and the judge would understand that humanbeing need water for survival, but if this guy is form Minnesota, then they have 1000 lakes and he doesn’t care or have a clue.


July 27th, 2009
7:17 am

I don’t think Andrew Jackson is a good example to use. There is debate as to whether or not he actually said that, and he never entirely went against the Supreme Court decision of Worcester v. Georgia. However, this incident is often attributed as the main precursor to the Trail of Tears, where the federal government forcibly moved thousands of Native Americans, resulting in the deaths of around 4000.

Paul Rice

July 27th, 2009
7:18 am

It seems that Georgia (Governor and Legislature) refuses to seriously address this issue unless we are in a drought. Even then the best that our Governor could do last year was to ask us to “pray.” None of the other states have any reason to give into Georgia. We need to start doing what is in our control, such as build lakes and tap the Tennessee River.

Redneck Convert (R--and proud of it)

July 27th, 2009
7:19 am

Well, I think we need to get old Sonny and some preachers out on the capitol steps and do for this water thing what they done for the drought: pray. It worked for the drought. They got out there for about a hour and in about six months the drought was over.

We don’t need no water plan. Prayer is the GA Water Plan. We can show this Minnesota activist judge he can’t mess with God.

That’s my opinion and it’s very true. Have a good day everybody.

Craig S

July 27th, 2009
7:29 am

I think this city does need to finally face it’s complete lack of growth control. There is not one system here that can handle today’s needs. Infrastructure, sewage, roads, transit, nothing. We have overwhelmed every system and yet we sit and say more more more, grow grow grow. Atlanta needs to do some fixing before it continues whining.


July 27th, 2009
7:39 am

CraigS. are you suggesting we no longer allow people to move to the metro area? Maybe we should also put a moratorium on businesses that would like to relocate here?

Ted Kennedy

July 27th, 2009
7:40 am

Aaaauuhhh…Good citizens of Georgia might I remind you that the results of the civil war were not in your favuh. Furthamore the State of Georgia has been casting ballots for the right side of the isle.

Here is what we need to do. Drain this lake completely and I will then push thru a bill in The Congress that calls for the immediate refilling the lake with excess vodka, rum and bottom-shelf scotch.

Thank you very much, Im hungover as hell and goin back to bed. Good day.


July 27th, 2009
7:47 am

While I agree with Craig S. that Atlanta never had a growth plan (and should get one), actually not sure we had an original plan to rebuild after Sherman. That said piss on this judge; the water is in our back yard we paid to build the lake for the purpose of drawing water, let him stop us. While we are at it we should kick the ACOE off our dam, I’m not sure they are doing the best job up there. Last time I checked this was a union of states if the feds want a single country acting as one then erase the state boundaries, short of that Alabama and Florida should have fought for more land way back when. Let them get there own dam(n) water.


July 27th, 2009
8:01 am

The Judge was 100% correct. We are a nation of laws. Read both the ruling, and the primary sources it draws on. Water for the city of Atlanta was never one of the main purposes of the lake. Indeed, it was stated at the time, that should that change, and water for Atlanta become a major usage of the lake, that it would have to be authorized by Congress.


July 27th, 2009
8:07 am

Let’s see now, Sunday’s paper said Atlanta didn’t contribute a cent to building the dam. Either AJC is wrong or these expert comments are wrong.


July 27th, 2009
8:14 am

So, Bob Barr, the citizens of Atlanta paid for the Buford Dam. According to the Sunday AJC (which I’m sure you consider a liberal rag and doesn’t know the truth of anything), the citizens of Atlanta did not pay for the dam. Of course, you’re going to say, their taxes paid. Well, that means that the citizens of the greater US also paid for that dam. So, I think a judge in a far, far land does have a right to weight in on the issue as does every citizen in the US.

Georgia was given many opportunities to work with Florida and Alabama to resolve the water issue. And, they choose time and time again to do nothing. Well now it’s time to do something or the rest of the nation, along with judges, will do it for us. In the form of new laws from Congress.


July 27th, 2009
8:18 am

The local water authorities sat down on the job. They knew 20 years ago that this day might get here. All they had to do was buy several 300 acre tracts, dig holes in the ground & fill the holes with water.
Then you have your own water system.

Bob, go take a tour of the Clayton County water system. It is a marvel.


July 27th, 2009
8:19 am

I believe you can not put millions of people in a small area without creating such problems as this. A cure for this is for Atlanta to expand along the interstates and not pack people like sardines.


July 27th, 2009
8:35 am

I agree that the Judge’s ruling is harsh, but the metro area has failed to properly manage its growth. Georgia Tech has one of the best planning departments in the country, but none of the politicos listen. Hopefully Congress will pass a law that allows the metro area access to water, but also forces it to place some restrictions on growth.

JF McNamara

July 27th, 2009
9:14 am

They aren’t going to cut off the water flow to one of the major population centers in the United States no matter what the ruling says. It would be political suicide as it would play on TV as poorly as hurricane Katrina.


July 27th, 2009
9:30 am

We don’t need ACTIVIST judges.
The judge looked at the law and made a decision based on the LAW.
Isn’t that what people want?
Or were you expecting some EMPATHY?
How about some COMPASSION?
Maybe a WISE LATINA would have made a WISER decision.
Goodbye Atlanta. Your days are numbered.
The white-wing kooks who run the affairs of Georgia, Alabama, and Florida will NEVER be able to arrive at an agreement.

tom thumb

July 27th, 2009
9:39 am

Time to kick the US Army out of Georgia. Then they can take the corps with them.


July 27th, 2009
9:44 am

Maybe Georgia should take water from the hooch before it hits Lanier.

Do the Math

July 27th, 2009
9:47 am

If I’m not mistaken, the City of Atlanta is in the clear on the water use as it uses less water from the Chatahoochee then it puts back in storm water. It’s the northern counties with their unchecked growth, big yards and reliance on Bufford Dam that are in big trouble.

Tough ruling for sure, and compounded by the lack of leadership at the state level.

Dr. R

July 27th, 2009
9:52 am

It seems that any judge who would focus on “common sense” and the “legislative inent” would be legislating from the bench instead of following the letter of the law. I thought Barr was one of those against such judicial fiat? The bad guy in this isn’t Magnuson; it’s the corps for its mismanagement and failure to codify its water use into law, and politicians for failing to fix this sooner. As a lawyer, Barr knows that it’s not enough to have “intent.” You need to write stuff down. No one did so, and we’re the worse for it.


July 27th, 2009
10:01 am

WHy can’t state of GA just build its own dam and reservoir?

Get Real

July 27th, 2009
10:20 am

I’m sorry noone can shut the water off to millions of people. this would lead tocivil unrest and political sucide to everyone involved. Who could inforce it, all the police live here, the army is stationed here.

No one complained about the growth when it was giving jobs and econimic growth to the area.

I know earlier one of the writers half jaked about digging holes upstream. Ga. should look into the feasibility of buikding another damn with our money and drying up the feed to Lanier. This might be better chip in the game.


July 27th, 2009
10:21 am

Seems like ex-everything Barr has loaded his assault mouth with nothing but “double talk” ! Guess Ex-Barr would have this water mess with Florida and Alabama all cleaned up if he had been re-elected – not a chance for either !

Curious Observer

July 27th, 2009
10:30 am

Maybe Georgia should take water from the hooch before it hits Lanier.

Nah, makes too much sense. You obviously haven’t been in Georgia long.

Dr. R

July 27th, 2009
10:31 am

Building another dam and reservoir is needed, but it takes years and years to get it done. The water won’t be shut off as long as the Chattahoochee is flowing, but it will be limited, and so will growth. And the next drought that comes along could result in shortages. Yes, it’s a terrible idea to shut off water to 5 million people. That’s why the idiots in charge of the lake and our state should have thought of this years ago instead of waiting until the courts decided it. If the law isn’t on your side, you better get right with it before it gets to that point. We Atlantans have felt too much sense of entitlement for quite awhile. The only good news is that slower growth might lead the rush of folks from up north and elsewhere to slow down. Maybe we can go back to being a peaceful Southern town with a hint of gracious living.


July 27th, 2009
10:40 am

Bob Barr apparently forgot that it was the Atlanta Regional Commission that asked to have all the cases transferred to Judge Magnuson.


July 27th, 2009
10:53 am

There is one sure fire way to get congress to act, and act fast. Make this a racial issue. Atlanta is one of the two prominent cities in the south which is majority “african american”. The other is New Orleans. We should point out the similarities in that both are at the mercy of the Corps of engineers, and both are being substandardly served by the same. Point out that the Judge in this case is from a state which is almost entirely “white”. Bring in Jesse and Al, and put John Lewis in front of Congress and watch the ball start rolling.

The real puzzle to me is that Georgia seems to take a back seat to Fla. and Ala. when the majority of the water falls and is collected by rivers which originate in Georgia. The same is true with the Tennessee river. 90% of the water in the Tennessee originates in Ga. The Little Tennessee river starts in Rabun Cos. Wolfork valley. The Haiwassee river, Nottely river, and Toccoa river, among others all feed the Tennessee. It seems absurd on the surface that Ga. should have no claim to this water.

Dr. R

July 27th, 2009
10:58 am

Barr is still a typical politician: Praise court rulings when they are in your favor, blast the courts as being extreme when they’re not. Keep in mind there is nothing partisan about this issue; the governors of Alabama and Florida are GOP and praise the ruling as a way to enforce the law as written, not the law as someone would prefer it to be. Barr,
Perdue and the morons who run our state are selective when it comes to when and where they choose to follow a true path of conservatism. They’ll advocate smaller, less-intrusive government, unless it’s to tell us how to conduct our personal lives. They’ll push for obeying the law, except when it works against them. How about this: Does allowing illegal immigrants come here and work follow “common sense” instead of the law itself? No, I don’t think many would agree to that. The fact that he would actually publish views in direct contradiction of his supposed philosophy shows how cynical, arrogant and out of touch he is. And how the ideologues among us can talk themselves into most anything (i.e., Sarah Palin has a clue) even when all reasonable evidence is to the contrary. Liberals do it, too, by the way.

Brent David

July 27th, 2009
10:59 am

Oh sure – pray about it. That should solve everything. Toss all reason to responsibility to some mythical being. Great idea redneck.

I’m sure Sonny Perdue saved us all from the drought… I’m gonna dance on Sonny’s bible-belt-baptist-ass-gubernatorial grave when he’s out of power, and we can all buy alcohol on Sundays while “Redneck” is sitting in church praying over his next political belief.


July 27th, 2009
11:00 am

If the use of the water from the chattahoochee is limited to those things in the original agreement, Why do the mussels in Fla. trump Atlanta. I’m almost positive they were not in the original agreement.

Religious Bigotry Over a Water Issue?

July 27th, 2009
11:16 am

Romans 14:11 (New International Version)
Romans 14:11

It is written:
” ‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord,
‘every knee will bow before me;
every tongue will confess to God.’ “


July 27th, 2009
11:17 am

Seems that Magnuson made a sound decision. You may try to man the barricades, if you wish, but it’s time that this issue was resolved in perpetuity. The states have been unable to do so and will probably continue to be like little boys trying to share a toy. If the judge was tired of the bickering, it was justified. Get your musket and take up a position on Buford Dam if you wish, but for the rest of us, I think we want an end to the millions in legal fees.

Dr. R

July 27th, 2009
11:19 am

Where the water comes from is irrelevant. The federal government built and paid for Lake Lanier and handles its management; no one in state government chose to oppose that for 50 years until water became an issue. You can’t decide in retrospect that you don’t like the deal you agreed to decades ago and ask for a do-over. The corps manages federally built reservoirs, no matter what waters flow into them. End of story. Wishing otherwise doesn’t make it so.

As for the Florida mussels, they aren’t part of the corps manuals, but that is more tied to the Woodruff Dam on Lake Seminole. If the corps has to release a certain amount of water from Lanier for downstream concerns like power plants, the mussels will benefit from the flow whether they are part of the deal or not. That water has to come out somewhere and it happens to be in their bay.

I don’t mean to be hogging the blog here. Does anyone out there agree with Barr? I’d be interested to hear why.

Chris Salzmann

July 27th, 2009
11:34 am

The citizens of Atlanta paid for the reservoir??? My understanding is that it was paid for by the Federal government, which is why it is referred to as a FEDERAL RESERVOIR and is therefore administered by the Army Corps of Engineers (a federal agency). This is also why an “unelected” Federal judge in far away Minnesota had the jurisdiction to issue a ruling on this case. Frankly, I would have been shocked if ANY politician in Atlanta had been so far sighted as to have predicted this growth. I probably would have just keeled over if someone informed me that ANY Georgia politician from rural Georgia had EVER voted to have given STATE TAX dollars for a project of this magnitude to HELP ATLANTA! If that ever happens, remind me to check the temperature in Hell.

Honestly Bob, please get the basics right before going off on an issue.


July 27th, 2009
11:36 am

Sorry Dr. R, but I have some issues.

“Building another dam and reservoir is needed, but it takes years and years to get it done.”
Gov. Barnes had such plans, scrapped by Gov. Sonny. The people who voted for Gov. Sonny were more concerned with flags and Bush loyalty.

“…but it will be limited, and so will growth.” Growth in this region has always been about GREED. Local zoning boards and state legislators lined their own pockets with NO THOUGHT to long-term consequences or the people who endure this mess. Do you think you can change selfish greed in a land where it’s viewed as a good Christian VIRTUE? Good luck.

“We Atlantans have felt too much sense of entitlement for quite awhile.” I politely invite you to kiss my behind. I’m actually FROM Atlanta. My family has lived here for generations. WE are not the ones who sold out every spare inch for strip malls and mc-mansions. WE did not want this. DO NOT BLAME THE PEOPLE OF ATLANTA for developers’ greed!

“Maybe we can go back to being a peaceful Southern town with a hint of gracious living.” From your lips to God’s ears!!!


July 27th, 2009
11:38 am

Doesn’t Atlanta draw water from the portion of the river downstream from the dam? If so we would depend on the flows through the dam, not taking the water directly from the lake

Chris Salzmann

July 27th, 2009
11:38 am

Brent David July 27th, 2009 10:59 am: I’m sure Sonny Perdue saved us all from the drought… I’m gonna dance on Sonny’s bible-belt-baptist-ass-gubernatorial grave when he’s out of power, and we can all buy alcohol on Sundays while “Redneck” is sitting in church praying over his next political belief.

CHRIS SAYS: ROFLMAO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! You should take up comedy. SERIOUSLY!


July 27th, 2009
11:50 am

It is really hypocritical and irresponsible for Barr to encourage defying a court ruling just because he doesn’t like the outcome. And that’s all it is. There is no issue of a judge “overstepping his bounds”; none of the parties objected to the court’s jusidiction. They agreed to bring in a judge from outside the region, because a judge from Ga., Fla., or Ala. might be perceived as biased. The legal issues were close enough that a decision either way was possible.

Imagine if the judge had ruled the other way, in Georgia’s favor. Then, he would be praising the decision to the skies, and his counterparts in Fla. & Ala. – the right-wing extreme libertarian columnists there, would be encouraging defiance of federal court orders, in the tradition of the segregationists.

As for those people who keep writing that “Atlanta” will just have to suffer, realize that the city of Atlanta is not the entity with the biggest problem here – that would be counties such as Gwinnett and Cobb, and north Fulton.

Chris Salzmann

July 27th, 2009
11:51 am

Scott July 27th, 2009 11:38 am: Doesn’t Atlanta draw water from the portion of the river downstream from the dam? If so we would depend on the flows through the dam, not taking the water directly from the lake

CHRIS SAYS: I believe that water downstream from the dam is still considered coming from the reservoir since it technically passes through the it after collecting there.

Dr. R

July 27th, 2009
12:00 pm

Actually, Matilda, I think we’re on the same page more than you think. I agree that growth has been fueled by greed, though we should qualify that to some degree. Growth is a good thing, when managed properly. I am also a native Atlantan, and I wouldn’t want to swap places with Detroit or the other rust belt cities of the North that have lost jobs and population over the years. But you have to control it better than the city has. Our politicians, from the state capitol to every local commission and zoning board, share equal blame. But so do we for electing them; responsiblity for poor leaders goes back to those who put them in office (playing “us” and “them” when it comes to that doesn’t solve anything). Too many voters will pick the person who promises them the most goodies, not the one who looks farther down the road and urges caution. So we all grew this city without thinking carefully about resources, particularly our one little water source that can’t sustain the numbers we now have. This is indeed why we turn to “unelected” judges who aren’t beholden to curry favor with voters when rendering a decision. Barr tosses that phrase around like it’s a bad thing. God help us if we ever elected all of our judges and they started interpreting the law to fulfill their own political whims. This is why the judiciary remains the sole keeper of the Constitution. Those other bozos can’t be trusted to do it right.

Michael Hartley

July 27th, 2009
12:05 pm

While I agree with Mr. Barr’s general comments, I am surprised he does not see the irony of a libertarian bemoaning a “strict constructionist” judicial decision. Isn’t this decision exactly what you believe judges should do? The judge made it clear that if the provision is not written explicitly into the law then the provision does not exist. As I recall, you have criticized judges for doing anything other than that for a very long time.

Dr. R

July 27th, 2009
12:13 pm

Exactly my original point, Michael. Barr remains more politician than commentator. He has no credibility on any issue in which he’s willing to bend his general ideology to fit with the popular view on any issue. Real Libertarians (I believe am I one) apply the general notion of free markets and individual freedom to all topics without subjecting them to a litmus test, i.e., does this benefit me or the people whose vote I am trying to procure? The judge’s ruling was legal and correct, though bad for Atlanta; thus Barr, an Atlantan, decides that he is in the wrong and creates a bizarro argument to support it. Really, I wish the AJC would find a more professional columnist in that spot. The Wingfield guy is good, as is Booker. Having an intelligent debate on key issues is the goal of a good editorial page, not giving itinerant political hacks a forum for their nonsense.


July 27th, 2009
12:13 pm

What goes in the lake from the river should go out of the lake from the river.


July 27th, 2009
12:20 pm

Recently I have found myself in agreement with Bob but disagree with him on this.

This order would not be a matter for discussion if the judge didn’t have jursidiction and authority to issue it. This judge has read the relevant legislation and other applicable law and rendered a decision. It is absolutely appropriate for him to issue the ruling if he has jurisdiction and has issued an order in good faith according to the law.

This ruling can be appealed if Bob doesn’t like it. Or he can lobby Congress to remove or change authority prospectively but this is the law as it is written today.

Hopefully this will finally wake the Atlanta region up to reality that unlimited growth with an expectation and right of entitlement to land, water, freedom to pollute, etc. are fictional. This must come to an end.

Atlanta can still continue to grow economically but it needs to be smart growth. Just as the economic crisis has forced people to cut back on spending and change bad habits, so too can this water crisis force this region to change its bad habits.

JF McNamara

July 27th, 2009
12:43 pm


We were doing fine without race in the discussion. I actually thought a day might go by where everyone wasn’t fixated on it in every issue.

Secondly, while Atlanta is 60% Black, the Atlanta metro area is 60% White. Any reasonable person throw out the argument of racial inequality given that the entire metro area, majority white, is being affected.


July 27th, 2009
12:45 pm

As a person who lives next to a construction site that was abandoned two years ago, I have a unique perception of Metro Atlanta’s growth. These builders all went before our various councils and committees and asked to have lots rezoned or redrawn for their apartment complexes, condominiums, strip houses, McMansions, and strip malls. The coucils all saw that real estate prices continued to go higher and that by developing these propeties, the counties could expect higher property tax revenue and thus write larger budgets for the upcoming year.

At no time did anyone (anyone with a loud voice anyway) ever stop and wonder aloud, “Don’t we have too many houses, strip malls and apartment complexes already”. So they rubber stamped any and every builder’s request.

Now, they are raising taxes on properties that have dropped in value to cover their mistakes.

And what happens to them? Nothing. They get re-elected because people don’t care about local government.

Thank God an “unelected Official” made this and other decisions, because the elected Officials are making horrible decisions with no consequences.

Dr. R

July 27th, 2009
12:47 pm

Actually, the corps and the courts have no jurisdiction over the Chattahoochee itself, and no one is keeping Atlanta from pulling water from the river. The issue is how much of it is there. Atlanta wants Lanier water saved as a resource for drought periods and not sent downstream to the other states. If those water releases continue at the higher levels during droughts, the lake could drop below safe levels and eventually dry up, which would hurt everyone concerned. Thus, it should be in Alabama’s and Florida’s best interests as well to maintain and protect it. But those states are run by politicians as well who are beholden to their short-term interests and could care less what happens when they’re out of office in a few years. That, and the jealousy and contempt rural interests have for Atlanta. It’s big, it’s black, it’s gay, it’s busy and it dominates the region and they aren’t comfortable with any of that. Killing Atlanta would be a feather in their cap to the toothless homefolks who vote for them. Let’s put it this way: If Atlanta goes under, where will these folks go for jobs, for an aiport, for the infrastructure and economic boost that a major city provides? On the other hand, who is going to suffer one way or another if Eufala, Dothan or Apalachicola aren’t thriving? It’s provincialism run amok, and unfortunately, supported by ill-conceived laws and poor management governing the region’s water.

Common Sense

July 27th, 2009
12:49 pm

1. The ruling by the judge in Minnesota will NEVER be enforced. Some sort of equitable compromise will be hashed out.

2. Build some more damn reservoirs. What the heck is everyone waiting for. It’s like Lanier was built and no one can fathom the idea of adding more water sources. Think outside the box, people!


July 27th, 2009
12:52 pm

Enter your comments here


July 27th, 2009
12:53 pm

Dr. R

Which is exactly why Atlanta should use race to get Congress moving. I do not for one second believe race to be an issue here, but I do believe, given the demographics, It could be an ace up the sleeve.

Mr. Contrarian

July 27th, 2009
12:59 pm

There is next to no chance that the governors of Alabama and Florida will negotiate. Why should they? They won. Three years is not much time for Congress to act and one never knows what will result if they do. Nor can we be certain what the Supreme Court will rule. In the end, Mr. Barr is right. Let the judge enforce his order. Direct action is the final option. The Governor has at least two resources available to him to keep the water flowing.


July 27th, 2009
1:04 pm

I’m all for building a new reservoir. I believe that either Gwinnett or Cobb County would be a great location–preferably both, and the more area the better. Drowning a few million arch-conservatives would do wonders for the fortunes of this state.

Dr. R

July 27th, 2009
1:09 pm

I wish race weren’t a factor, either, but you have to be realistic. Here’s an anecdote that shows how many feel about Atlanta: A friend of mine had his parents driving through Atlanta once (they were from up north, incidentally) en route to Florida. Though they had no plans to stop or even exit the interstate, they told him they would make sure to lock their doors as they drove down. He was incredulous; “What do you think they do,” he asked? “Run alongside your car and rob you?” That’s how many view Atlanta, particularly those from small towns who are generally distrusting of city life. It’s not that Atlanta has more crime or problems than other cities its size. It’s that it is a major city plopped in the middle of the rural South and offers a more extreme contrast than what you find elsewhere.

As for building more reservoirs, it’s complicated. There are numerous environmental permits that need to be secured first. If a breed of rare salamander is going to be inconvenienced by a new lake, then accommodations need to be made, and that slows the whole thing down.


July 27th, 2009
1:17 pm

What if we channel all of the metro’s air conditioning condensate down the storm drains, I bet if you could add them all up it is alot of water per day

Mike "Hussein" Smith

July 27th, 2009
1:27 pm

think inside your brain, common sense


July 27th, 2009
1:30 pm

We should work out a deal with Florida that for every University of Florida graduate they send to metro Atlanta, we get to withdraw more water. Either that or they can keep their graduates.


July 27th, 2009
2:01 pm

I support the judge’s decision. Look at what unchecked growth has done to the capital. Many projects now sit unattended to because many people locally didn’t have the forethought to see a recession that many economists were predicting 3, 4, 5 years ago. Maybe this city does need an outside entity to choke off the growth so that we can fix those things that currently exist.

My family and I had to move further away into the country in order to get some peace and quiet because Atlanta and its influence was invading my once sleepy town of Peachtree City (read: crime).

Atlanta isn’t everything its leaders and former state politicians crack it up to be. I wouldn’t live there if you paid me…..

Wyld Byll Hyltnyr

July 27th, 2009
2:07 pm

Bob, here’s what I do not understand. Congress did not establish drawing water for metro Atlanta as an expressly enunciated use for the dam project; however, there has been a departure from the enunciated purpose from almost the day since the dam was completed. In that the downstream parties did not react to this situation at or near its inception means that the water use by Atlanta represents a mutual departure, effectively endorsed by the downstream parties’ course of dealing, from the enunciated purpose for dam. Since the downstream parties did not attempt to correct the mutual departure until substantial development and reliance upon the water source had been developed in good faith by metro Atlanta, how can the downstream parties claim, in equity, that Atlanta’s water use should return to levels that predate development that occurred under the mutual departure from the enunciated purpose for the dam when the resident’s of metro Atlanta acted in good faith while relying on the water that was available under the mutual departure?

Craig S

July 27th, 2009
2:30 pm

What about that HUGE body of water over to the right. Desalinization anyone ? I learned an interesting thought from my ex many years ago. We pay and pay our water bills with the honest expectation that it pays for water, and the infrastructure to get it here, and the security of it in the future. We have paid our bills, where has all the “future” of it gone ?? Whose pockets has it lined. We don’t get to ask our bosses for a raise because we forgot to save up for a new roof, we have to work on the finances and maintenane in advance. Atlanta’s future should have been thought of all along by the responsible people.

I’ve been trying to rebuild this, my first home and yard, spending quite a bit of money on grass and landscaping. I’d like to be able to water it. I’ve paid my bills ontime, why can’t I wash my car when I need to. I know we can now, finally, but last year we all suffered.


July 27th, 2009
2:40 pm

many people locally didn’t have the forethought to see a recession that many economists were predicting 3, 4, 5 years ago. – LIKE WHO?

STFU! Peter Schiff, Ron Paul and a few other outside the “maintream” observers sounded alarms. And they were literally laughed at or ignored. “Many economists”, including the criminal Federal Reserve cheered this whole mess on. What do you think Barney Frank saw when his hairy butt was bent over? An effin housing meltdown? No, his carpet ya dummazz. The economic illiteracy of this country is suicidal.


July 27th, 2009
4:05 pm

Absolutely amazing! Last week, you were ranting and raving about your fear that judge Sotomayor would make law rather than follow the law from the (unelected) Supreme Court. And now you do an about face, ranting and raving because a judge does follow the letter of the law as Congress wrote it. As usual, like your fellow ultra conservatives, you talk out of both mouths and expect no one to notice when your breath is foul.

Charley del Pizzo

July 27th, 2009
4:12 pm

Mr. Barr seems to have forgotten he’s a Republican. He states the Judge failed to use “common sense” in his ruling. But isn’t using common sense and not enforcing the existing law just what Republicans hate most: legislating from the bench? Mr. Barr also appears not to have read a recent AJC article about Mayor Heartsfield and the damn that stated Atlanta did not contribute or pay for the damn in any way, other than that portion of Federal Taxes, collected from the 1950 population, allocated to fund the project. Additionally it appears Mr. Barr’s 1997 legislation was completely ineffective. Why didn’t Mr. Barr write an effective law when he was in congress, when he could have actually helped, instead of criticizing the Judge for stating and enforcing the existing law?


July 27th, 2009
4:16 pm

So which is it? On Sunday the AJC ran a featured article outlining the history of the Buford dam in which it stated a source of water for the city of Atlanta was never one of its intended purposes. The article went on to say the city of Atlanta didn’t pay a single dime toward construction of the dam. Bob’s oped piece contradicts both of these findings.

the evil rich

July 27th, 2009
4:54 pm

Maybe the bigger picture is why do we have to get the federal government involved? Nannyland 2008.


July 27th, 2009
6:02 pm

Why can’t we just move them there mussel’s to the GA Aquarium & keep our water?


July 27th, 2009
6:56 pm


I just reread the article. Not once does he say Atlanta paid Anthing toward building Buford Dam.

Chris Salzmann

July 27th, 2009
6:58 pm

the evil rich July 27th, 2009 4:54 pm SAID: Maybe the bigger picture is why do we have to get the federal government involved? Nannyland 2008.

CHRIS SAYS: Because its a FEDERAL RESERVOIR built by the FEDERAL GOVERNMENT, administered by the Army Corps of Engineers (a FEDERAL Agency) and which is ALSO why a FEDERAL judge has the jurisdiction to decide on this case.

Don’t feel too bad. Bob Barr has the same misconception as you (I think that by now he wishes he could take all this back). That’s why it makes sense to do a little research before expounding on your two cents :-)

Chris Salzmann

July 27th, 2009
7:10 pm

From the Army Corps of Engineer’s Website regarding Lake Lanier:

“”Congress authorized Buford Dam for construction in 1946 as part of the overall development of the nation’s waterways after the Second World War. The river and harbor legislation that came out of Congress during this time period was targeted at developing the nation’s rivers systems for national defense, flood control, power production, navigation and water supplies.”"

Atlanta and the state of GA didn’t pay a cent for it. Hence the term FEDERAL Reservoir. A federal judge from Minnesota was chosen as an arbiter from a NEUTRAL location.


July 27th, 2009
7:16 pm

I would have loved to have seen some bottom-feeding federal lawyer with a penchant for women clothes tell Lester Maddox we couldn’t get water from the Hooch. Or even Zell.

Those mussells must be bigger than any of our local boys’ testes.

Stand by for another 100 million in legal fees.



July 27th, 2009
7:21 pm

Chris Salzman posted-

“My understanding is that it was paid for by the Federal government,”

jt replies-

That is all you need to know about the thinking process of Chris Salzman. WE didn’t pay for it. The FEDERAL GOVERMENT did.



July 27th, 2009
7:28 pm

Everyone, including Mr. Barr, is overreacting to this ruling. This Federal judge is simply adding a time schedule to get the ball rolling so Congress will enact the law(s) required to guide the new uses. Yes, compared to 1957 or so, some of these are newer uses which have not been accounted for in the ‘old’ legislation. It’s been up to the politicians for over a decade through terrible drought and zero, NOTHING, has been accomplished. Bet you something gets done now , eh?
What I can’t believe is that in 2009, there is a huge metropolitan area like Atlanta that relies on a lake they don’t even own for most of their drinking water! Are you kidding me? Why didn’t they build their own reservoirs for the city say like 60 years ago? Oh yeah, this is Georgia. Never mind.

Chris Salzmann

July 27th, 2009
7:37 pm

jt July 27th, 2009 7:21 pm SAID: Chris Salzman posted-

“My understanding is that it was paid for by the Federal government,”

jt replies- That is all you need to know about the thinking process of Chris Salzman. WE didn’t pay for it. The FEDERAL GOVERMENT did. Riiiight.

CHRIS SAYS: When in hole, stop digging dude. Or as Mark Twain once said “Better to keep your mouth shut and be thought stupid than open it and remove all doubt”. Thanks for the confirmation.

Bottom line: The US CONGRESS authorized funding for this project. FEDERAL tax dollars were used for the FEDERAL RESERVOIR system. That’s why a FEDERAL judge had jurisdiction to decide this case. So what don’t you understand about the BASIC CONCEPT of STATE and FEDERAL jurisdictions? Is this the result of home schooling?

The libertarian movement is really heading for the thrash heap of history when they have people like you trying to fight their ideological battles. Don’t tell them because they might issue a cease and desist order to stop you from making them look like a bunch of retarded idiots.


July 27th, 2009
7:44 pm

Chris post-

” funding for this project. FEDERAL tax dollars were used for the FEDERAL RESERVOIR ”

jt replies-

Your paternalistic craving for Obama renders logic moot. ALL “federal tax dollars” are first seized from citizens.

The thought processes of Obama-bots are interesting in a macabre way.


Stan Dansby

July 27th, 2009
8:10 pm

What do you expect? This guy is from the same state that just stole a senatorial election. So the joke is on us.

Hillbilly Deluxe

July 27th, 2009
9:14 pm

Four decades of anything goes growth with no planning and now it’s coming home to roost.

And Lake Lanier was originally built for navigation, flood control, and hydroelectric power. It’s understandable that Mr. Barr wouldn’t know that though, he didn’t live here at the time.

Allen Anderson

July 27th, 2009
11:48 pm

booger writes, “The real puzzle to me is that Georgia seems to take a back seat to Fla. and Ala. when the majority of the water falls and is collected by rivers which originate in Georgia. The same is true with the Tennessee river. 90% of the water in the Tennessee originates in Ga. The Little Tennessee river starts in Rabun Cos. Wolfork valley. The Haiwassee river, Nottely river, and Toccoa river, among others all feed the Tennessee. It seems absurd on the surface that Ga. should have no claim to this water.”

What total nonsense about the water in the Tennessee. Nowhere near 90% of the water in the Tennessee originates in GA. Fact is the Tennessee is formed by the merging of the South Holston River (which starts in VA’s Shenandoah Valley) and the French Broad River (which starts in North Carolina). The next major river is the Little Tennessee River (originates in GA but is a very minor tributary until joined by other streams originating in NC) followed by the Clinch River (originates in TN).

GA has about a zero percent likelihood of being able to tap into the Tennessee River. Although the boundary was improperly set, it was set by a surveyor for the state of Georgia and GA has only half-heartedly tried to get it reset the last 200+ years, so precedent is set. Even if the border was moved to where it should have been, current environmental laws prohibit water being drawn from one watershed to be released into another one. The NRC would stand in opposition to any such attempts owing to the fact the water is needed as coolant for five nuclear units downstream from Chattanooga; if the water is too warm due to it being drawn down, it can’t be used to cool those reactors or any of TVA’s coal-fired steam plants. Similarly, the Coast Guard and Corps of Engineers would also stand in opposition as the Tennessee is used to transport goods by barge all the way upstream to downtown Knoxville.

Of course, if GA wishes to take on TN, AL, MS, and KY (since water would be denied those other three states as well) as well as the Corps of Engineers, the Coast Guard, the NRC and the EPA, I hope they have fun and some seriously-deep pockets.

BTW, I lived in the south end of Buckhead on Ardmore Circle for ten years.


July 28th, 2009
12:03 am

Is Bob Barr’s article tongue-in-cheek? The Judge relied on and stuck with the language and history of the statute. Is this the same Bob Barr who continuously decries “judicial activism?” Does Bob Barr really want a judge to look at “common sense” (whatever that means) and ignore the law. Will Bob Barr waht to use “common sense” when it comes to the Constitution and such things as gun laws? Blame the problem on the three Republican governors or blame it on the states, but don’t blame an unfortunate result on a Judge who supported the clear language of the law.


July 28th, 2009
7:23 am

Help me with this one….a judge follows the law (which many conservatives say is what a judge SHOULD do) and rules on something that the Governor of Georgia says is a federal issue, and you call him an “activist”. “Richard” had it right; the original authorization did NOT list water supply as an objective of the project. Rulings in civil law are decided on a preponderance of evidence, not what a reasonable person would do.

If we assume that a reasonable person would rule that water supply is naturally part of the project…………..wait, aren’t we being activists by reading something into the law that isn’t there?


July 28th, 2009
8:14 am

If you let Alabama and Florida have the water they want,then Lake Lanier will be empty and and no state will have the extra storage of Georgia’s water.propose letting each state in the river basin be allowed to take out thier percentage contribute to the entire basin

Trust me

July 28th, 2009
8:31 am

You know, it is hard to type and laugh profusely at the same time. Anyway, the jest of your dissertation is that you are disappointed that the judge, in this particular case, did not legislate from the bench. Well! If you will excuse me, I need to return to my profuse laughter. It’s hard to keep it pent up for long.


July 28th, 2009
9:00 am

Throw down the gantlet or run the gauntlet, one or the other. Perhaps the AJC could provide you with an AP style guide? Or I might suggest Strunk and White…

Chris Broe

July 28th, 2009
11:34 am

Grading Barr: I dont think Bob Barr lets himself get thirsty enough to make a quenching point about the water wars. He barely wets his whistle on this issue. Why do I get the idea that he’s the kid in high school who threw cherry bombs in the commodes just to get out of taking a shower after gym class?

Barr’s points are often obscured by the counter-clockwise swirl of the unsalvagable flotsam and jetsam forming the wreckage of his logic. C+


July 28th, 2009
1:02 pm

this is not about mussels or oysters, this is about downstream water rights. This has been a sticky issie nationwide for at least 100 years. There is at least 1 nuke plant south of Atlanta and Ga Power wants to build another.
For those of you that suggested… the Chatt north of Buford Dam is about 10 feet wide and 4 feet deep


July 28th, 2009
1:50 pm

Kind of funny that Barr wants the judge to read language into the statutes that isn’t there. Under other circumstances, he would deride that as “legislating from the bench.”

Edgar Edgerton

July 28th, 2009
2:13 pm

Mr. Barr,

One of your former colleagues, Mr. Linder, apparently believes that the best approach is to nationalize water as we have automobiles and soon will health care. See the post below and the big announcement this evening. Just turn water policy over to the Obama White House. Natinalization is assured and Atlanta gets “nonstructural solutions.” You are correct that the best approach is the compact. What is the “nonstructural solution” for Atlanta? One shower per week and lots of bottled water?



July 28th, 2009
4:05 pm

Allen Anderson writes:

“GA has about a zero percent likelihood of being able to tap into the Tennessee River. Although the boundary was improperly set, it was set by a surveyor for the state of Georgia and GA has only half-heartedly tried to get it reset the last 200+ years, so precedent is set.”

I wouldn’t be so sure. If we can look to 50-year-old legislation to determine the proper use of Lake Lanier, why can’t we look to 200-year-old legislation to determine the proper northern border of Georgia?

The REAL GodHatesTrash, Superstar

July 28th, 2009
4:05 pm

Georgia used to have plenty of water, until all the Yankees came, wanting to take baths more than onced a year, and wanting to drink water instead of ’shine.

The REAL GodHatesTrash, Superstar

July 28th, 2009
4:14 pm

Perhaps if this judge had a little “empathy”…

ROFLMAO at you knuckleheads, thankfully from a great distance…


July 28th, 2009
4:18 pm

Seems to me that Atlanta’s northern suburbs need to suck it up and build some sewer systems, so that instead of taking water out of the lake and dumping it into septic tanks, the water can be treated and returned to the Chattahoochee river system. What? It will be expensive? Because the suburbs were sprawled randomly across our northern counties without thought of tying them together with a sewer system? Guess y’all should have thought of that earlier.


July 28th, 2009
4:24 pm

The solution is simple but we may not have the time. A new resevoir needs to be built up stream and for the primary use of drinking water. This needs to be statred today. No 5 yr studies as we have only 3 yrs if in the worse case no aggrement can be reached. On the 150th aniversery of the battle of Atlanta, we may be on the verge of the next civil war and it will be over water. This is also a case of Ga needing to step up and tell the Feds it will not be dictated how we run our state. For too long states rights have been held hostage by Federal Funding. It is time for GA. to step up and fight for its rights. 4 million people with out water will not be exceptable and political carriers will be made and others burnt to the ground. The people of the Atlanta area and all of Ga. need to speak loadly about this issue. No other isssue will have a greater impact on this state in the next 5 yrs. If we put our head in the sand, we will come out high and dry.


July 28th, 2009
4:36 pm

We should pray for rain and capture it from the sky in giant plastic sheeting before it hits the lake. Florida can have all the water from the headwaters. And I’m moving to Savannah.

Mr. KnowitAll

July 28th, 2009
5:18 pm

Just for principle and common sense, somebody ought to kick this judge’s a$$ just for the laughs.

Look, folks. The original purpose for building the dams–ALL OF THEM—along the Chattahoochee was to have water available to ensure water was deep enough for barge traffic. Of course, being a government idea—it was a JOKE and the intent was a failure (no! say it ain’t so!).

Another grand and glorious government idea called the Endangered Species Act that superseded ALL other legislation. So, if there were a choice between helping people and some waste of a species like sturgeon and some freshwater clams—humans loose. The environmental whackos believed humans should starve so these slugs could survive. The question I have always asked is—what would the sturgeon and clams do if we weren’t here to save them?

Florida mines HUGE amounts of phosphates, exports and taxes it, and makes a fortune. How is water any different. If this water is collected in Georgia, and is a commodity with value, why shouldn;t Florida and Alabama PAY FOR IT? Now you have some dip$hit


July 28th, 2009
6:30 pm

One can’t always realistically expect to visit blogs and find clear, cogent, and correct arguments in defense of a certain perspective, but Dr. R has done a fine job in this instance.

There will be only long-term losers – in each of the states involved – if we continue to pursue resolution of this matter following Mr. Barr’s counsel. Unfortunately, it’s the course our ‘leaders’ appear to have adopted. If the United States and China can agree to cooperate to resolve issues far, far broader than a silly water dispute, Georgia, Florida, and Alabama could certainly (with proper leadership) agree to cooperate to address interstate issues (including water) that, left unresolved, are certain to foreclose major future economic development opportunities for the ENTIRE interconnected economic region.

david wayne osedach

July 28th, 2009
9:23 pm

Clean water is getting scarcer, and scarcer all across the country. It is something we will be paying a lot more for in the next decade and also conserving it (a lot more.)

[...] Judge throws down water gauntlet | The Barr CodeOn June 17, a federal judge from Minnesota – Paul Magnuson – ordered the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to stop permitting the Atlanta area to draw water from Lake Lanier needed to meet the needs of the area’s six million residents. Let’s take a moment to let that sink in. ….. These builders all went before our various councils and committees and asked to have lots rezoned or redrawn for their apartment complexes, condominiums, strip houses, McMansions, and strip malls. …  read more… [...]


July 31st, 2009
10:52 am

Uhm…let’s see how this works…a Federal judge makes a ruling that follows the written law on the books, without any “empathy” or “legislating from the bench.” Isn’t that what Mr. Barr and other conservatives have been asking for from judges? I guess it works differently if the “empathy” is on the other foot.

All that said, Mr. Barr’s point about tri-state water legislation he sponsored many years ago is a good one. What have our elected officials been doing all that time? The only way this will be solved is through negotiation among the stakeholders. Otherwise, you’re inviting the Feds to make the decision.


August 3rd, 2009
1:21 pm

2nd to last paragraph: “…allow citizens of the greater Atlanta area to use water from the reservoir they paid for.”


December 6th, 2009
6:46 pm

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