Gov. Sonny Perdue has scheduled a new conference in less than an hour to discuss the implications of a federal court decision against Georgia in the 19-year-old tri-state “water wars” with Florida and Alabama.
For background, let us take you back to a Jan. 6, 2003, article in the AJC that looked how the first Republican administration in Georgia might affect negotiations, given that Alabama and Florida also had GOP governors.
Actually, it seems that a post-election, pre-inaugural Perdue was reticent on the topic. Writer Stacy Shelton had to go back to the clips:
In his exuberant campaign last summer, Georgia Gov.-elect Sonny Perdue predicted the Republican sweep and said he would immediately call a “water summit” with his counterparts.
“We’ll come together face-to-face with no staff and hammer this thing out, ” Perdue said.
Since his underdog victory over Roy Barnes in November, Perdue’s staff has said the governor-elect’s first priority is balancing the state budget. He’s been unavailable for comment on the tri-state negotiations.
The water wars date back to long before 1990, the year in which Alabama sued the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for planning to reserve more Lake Lanier water for metro Atlanta’s drinking water and industrial use. At the time, Georgia officials were planning to use 529 million gallons a day from the lake and the Chattahoochee River to satisfy the demands of hundreds of thousands of new residents through 2010.
But that 2003 article did contain an important new, almost Palinesque operative in the negotiations:
Perhaps the most important new player in the water talks is Alec Poitevint, the Bainbridge agribusinessman appointed as federal commissioner in September. The Republican stalwart personally knows all three governors and was general chairman of Perdue’s gubernatorial campaign. Poitevint is also co-chairing Perdue’s inauguration.
In the compact negotiations, Poitevint represents more than 10 federal agencies, including the Corps of Engineers, which operates dams along the river systems, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which enforces clean-water laws. He has veto power over any agreement.
Poitevint doesn’t see a conflict among his various positions. His predecessor, Lindsay Thomas, was closely aligned with Georgia and the Democratic Party as a former five-term congressman from this state. At the time of his appointment by President Clinton, Thomas was also the chairman of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce.
Poitevint said he has not spoken to Georgia’s governor-elect about water since he was appointed federal commissioner.
Before then, Poitevint said his opinions were confined to general philosophies such as the importance of water and the need to recycle water for irrigation and other nonpotable uses.
But he also points to his interest in water that dates back about 25 years as a qualifying factor for his new job. Where he lives is another, he said.
“I can see Florida and Alabama from my house, ” Poitevint said. “Hopefully, that gives me some broader perspective.”
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