Let’s see…Monday we got a federal ruling on Georgia’s new illegal-immigration law…Tuesday we got the appellate court’s ruling on the water wars…maybe today we’ll hear from the 11th Circuit on Obamacare? (If so, I’ll be telling fortunes at Thursday night’s Mashable Atlanta social media meet-up.)
But seriously, yesterday’s water ruling by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is, as Joe Biden might say, a big, er, fishing deal:
The court threw out a 2009 ruling by Senior U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson, who had found it was illegal for the Corps of Engineers to draw water from Lake Lanier to meet the needs of 3 million metro residents. In its decision Tuesday, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that one of the purposes of the man-made reservoir about 45 miles upstream of Atlanta was to supply water to the metro region.
Alabama will appeal the ruling to the full Circuit Court.
Magnuson had also set a doomsday clock ticking for Georgia, Alabama and Florida to arrive at a water-sharing agreement. If the states could not reach a settlement by July 2012, Magnuson said, metro Atlanta would only be allowed to take the same amount of water it received in the mid-1970s — when the population was less than one-third its current size.
That deadline is no longer in effect.
Instead, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals set a new deadline. It gave the corps one year to make a final determination over water allocation from Lake Lanier. And the court reminded the corps that the water litigation has already been going on for more than two decades.
Magnuson’s order was wise in that it set a deadline for agreement, but unwise in that it neutered one state (Georgia) and thus empowered the others (Alabama and Florida). We’ll see if it holds up on appeal to the full court, and whether it ends up at the Supreme Court, but people in metro Atlanta can breathe — er, sip — a little easier today.
– By Kyle Wingfield