A federal judge has ruled against the state of Georgia in the tri-state water wars litigation.
But he wants a political solution and is sending the fight to Congress.
According to my AJC colleague Bill Rankin, the judge ruled that the Corps of Engineers should have sought congressional approval before allowing water from Lake Lanier to be reallocated for use by the metro Atlanta.
Read the 97-page order here.
If there is no congressional authorization by the time the end of three years is up, [U.S. District Judge Paul] Magnuson said, his order will take effect. That means that the operation of Buford Dam will return its “baseline” operation of the mid-1970s.
“Thus…only Gainesville and Buford will be allowed to withdraw water from the lake,” Magnuson said….
The topic will have to be explored, but the immediate question that comes to mind is the effect this will have on House Republicans from Georgia.
The hard-line tactics of Tom Price of Roswell, Lynn Westmoreland of Coweta County, Paul Broun of Athens and Phil Gingrey of Marietta — who have become prominent bomb-throwers for the GOP — have not pleased Democrats who control the chamber, we understand.
This is not a surprise. Raised nails tend to get hammered.
But last week, U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, the Republican from Alabama, was able to insert language favorable to his state’s water position into a 2010 appropriations bill.
House Republicans from Georgia — Nathan Deal was the face of the effort — attempted to answer with language of their own, in the House version. (Four Georgia Democrats — John Lewis, David Scott, Hank Johnson and John Barrow — were part of the effort, but Deal and Gingrey were the lead sponsors.)
The attempt was shut down. House leadership would not permit a vote.
Some will point out, with justification, that sheer numbers are at work here. Florida has 25 U.S. House members. Alabama has seven. Georgia has 13. Yet it can’t have helped that, on Monday, U.S. Rep. Paul Broun tried to torpedo the House agenda on Monday with a sudden motion to adjourn — which sent key Democrats scrambling.
Good relations in Congress have suddenly become as valuable as, say, water.
We understand that a rare meeting of the entire Georgia congressional delegation — Democrat and Republican, House and Senate — has been called for early next week in Washington. To make sure everyone is on the same page.
But among Republicans, look for U.S. Sens. Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss to take the lead on negotiations. This is where a history of congeniality pays off.
Chambliss and Isakson have put out the following joint statement:
“The judge’s ruling places the decision of allocation of water from Lake Lanier solely on the shoulders of Congress. As members of the U.S. Senate from Georgia, we will work tirelessly to reach an agreement that is in the best interest of Georgia while at the same time respecting the interests and concerns of Florida and Alabama. This is a huge challenge, but it is a challenge we must meet.”
Gingrey was the first House member to respond, Democrat or Republican:
“While I am greatly disappointed by the Court’s ruling, the decision leaves little choice but to seek consensus through the legislative process. Congressional inaction is no longer an option, and I stand ready and committed to work in a bipartisan way for a fair resolution that respects and protects the interests of Georgia, Florida, and Alabama.”
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