Updated throughout at 11:24 a.m.
In an interview with WABE radio on Thursday, Alabama Gov. Bob Riley said that any claim that Alabama walked away from a water deal with Georgia in 2007 is “somewhat disingenuous.”
Go here to listen to part one of Riley’s interview with WABE’s Denis O’Hayer. Part two of the interview will air this afternoon on 90.1 FM during “All Things Considered.”
Riley’s comments came a day after Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the two states were hours away from signing a deal in 2007 to solve a major part of the nearly two-decades old water wars involving Georgia, Alabama and Florida.
“If I stand up and say I’m willing to negotiate, but I never can make it and I don’t come, what does that say?” Perdue said Wednesday. Alabama “very clearly favored a litigation strategy rather than a negotiating strategy.”
But in his interview with WABE, Riley refused to take the blame for the 2007 deal falling apart and said Georgia hasn’t always played fair, either.
“We also thought we had an agreement back in 2003, 2004,” he said. “Then we found out Georgia had this secret agreement with the Corps of Engineers that fell apart then. For someone to say we walked away is being somewhat disingenuous.”
Since 2007, Riley said, the two states have had six or seven “major meetings.” He said a confidentiality agreement prevents him from divulging what was said in those meetings or why the 2007 deal fell apart.
It is true that there have been meetings since 2007, Perdue communications director Bert Brantley said Friday morning. But, I don’t know it was ever as close as scouting locations” to sign a deal, Brantley said, which is what happened in 2007.
As for that “secret” agreement with the Corps, Brantley said those were water supply contracts, which were hardly secret. They are the same contracts Alabama sued to overturn.
Riley, as he said Wednesday to the AJC’s Bob Keefe in Washington, Riley told O’Hayer that he and Florida Gov. Charlie Crist remained committed to negotiating in good faith with Perdue and that he is confident a meeting can be arranged soon.
Perdue on Thursday sent a letter to Riley and Crist inviting them to meet in Atlanta or elsewhere, and offered up 40 different possible dates.
“We will get together over the next few weeks and I hope we can put something together,” Riley said on WABE on Thursday. “And I hope it can be productive and I hope we can be successful.”
In a statement to the AJC on Friday, Riley reiterated that.
“I am very pleased that Governor Perdue has extended this invitation,” Riley said. “I gladly accept it and I look forward to scheduling a meeting as soon as possible.”