Who will do what in Georgia’s fight for water

Ten of Georgia’s 15 representatives in Congress met in the basement rec room at Gov. Sonny Perdue’s house on Monday to discuss who will carry on what part of the fight for water on Georgia’s behalf.

Quick headline: Alabama Gov. Bob Riley has agreed to about 20 dates this year for a renewal of negotiations over use of water from Lake Lanier. Florida has yet to respond to Georgia’s overtures.

My AJC colleague Kristi Swartz has more details.

Last month, a U.S. District Court judge ruled that the U.S. Corps of Engineers, which controls Buford Dam, never had the authority to allow most of metro Atlanta to use Lake Lanier for drinking water.

Billions upon billions of dollars in economic development are at stake.

The importance of the Monday meeting at the Governor’s Mansion was underlined by the heavy attendance during an August recess — a period that members of Congress, when not being berated at town hall meetings, jealously guard for time with family.

Both of Georgia’s U.S. senators, Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson, showed up. House Republicans Nathan Deal of north Georgia and Phil Gingrey of Marietta slipped out before a brief press conference that followed — as did Democrat John Barrow.

Others attending were John Lewis, David Scott, Sanford Bishop and Hank Johnson.

“We all recognize the seriousness of the issue,” Chambliss said.

Perdue has taken great pains to keep the all the facets of state’s interests together. The attendance of Bishop, who represents southwest Georgia — a region that sometimes tends to side more with Florida and Alabama on water issues — was important.

The governor said he had also briefed — “the other day” — the heads of local governments, including Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin, and the commission chairmen of Fulton, DeKalb, Cobb and Gwinnett counties.

The governor also said he hopes to meet with a group of Georgia environmentalists “in the near future,” to make sure they’re on board.

The main purpose of Perdue’s meeting with the Georgia delegation was the division of labor. Negotiations over water use will remain the province of the governor, to be conducted with the governors of Florida and Alabama.

But at minimum, the federal judge has demanded that Congress give its approval to the use of Lake Lanier for anything other than power generation, flood control or navigation.

In Congress, delegations from Alabama and Florida outnumber Georgia (though all three are majority Republican in a Democratic Congress). In order to compensate for that weakness, Perdue has advocated nationalizing the fight.

“From a congressional standpoint, this is not just relegated to Georgia, Alabama and Florida. Early research shows there may be as many as 48 other impoundments operated by the Corps where drinking water is a use that’s not authorized,” Isakson said.

Does that mean the best strategy is to make the fight larger?

“I think the facts will dictate which way we go on that,” Isakson replied. “But if multiple states — as many as 27 or 28 — are affected, then we might take a national approach.”

But the senator was by no means certain.

Chimed in Scott, the Atlanta congressman: “I think it also matters how quickly we can get it done, either regionally or nationally.”

And it’s interesting that Chambliss spoke drafting federal legislation that his colleagues in Alabama and Florida would sign onto.
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12 comments Add your comment


August 17th, 2009
5:56 pm

Maybe Ralph Reed will organize some public prayer on the water issue, drawing attention and cameras to his boyish, I-never-sinned face once again.

redneck recluse

August 17th, 2009
6:35 pm

Solution is simple. Don’t do nothing. After 250,000 people in Atlanta die from the lack of water the problem will go away. Alabama & Florida will drop their case. After all, both states are social conservative strongholds & the sanctity of life is the major driving force politically in those states.

What is the difference in 250,000 abortions & 250,000 dehydrations?
Dead is dead.

[...] Sonny Perdue sat down with Georgia’s Congressional delegation today to discuss how the state will iron out a [...]

History Repeats...

August 17th, 2009
8:40 pm

This will only work if the 250,000 are deathers or birthers or teabaggers or something like that–
somebody the right-wingers would actually mind losing– better yet make it 500,000… just kidding…

The Sarge

August 17th, 2009
8:53 pm

Let’s try to boil this whole thing down to “understandable reality”:

1) For the last 70-or-so years, Georgia, and in particular, Atlanta, has been the recipient of a resource, water, which, by law, they really were not entitled to.

2) Inasmuch as Georgia never contributed one thin dime toward the construction of Buford Dam, the NATIONAL infrastructure which makes this water available in the first place, one might conclude that Georgia, for a great many years, has assumed a sense of entitlement to that which is, in reality, not there for the sole purpose of regional glut.

Instead of our “leaders” taking a “the-sky-is-falling” panic approach to the issue, perhaps they should consider the fact that Atlanta is indeed not the center of the water war universe, that there just might be other pressing needs outside of that idiotic Gold Dome. Or are these self-annointed Little Lord Fontlerys going to “hold their collective breath, take their marbles and go home, and cry “We’re loosing billions upon billions in development”! CRYBABYS…


August 17th, 2009
9:12 pm

It’s very simple.Atlanta has for years used water to which it was not entitled to use.Now a bunch of politicians have to manufacture enough words to make this problem go away.


August 17th, 2009
10:12 pm

Thanks to sorry Sonny we are on the short end of the water issue no matter how it goes.the good times are over.


August 17th, 2009
10:23 pm

Here’s how the big water fight will go down….

Gov Perdue will shout out ‘MARCO”…..His staff will say “Brilliant strategy.” They’ll huddle around eagerly waiting for “POLO,” to be shouted out by both Alabama and Florida.

It’ll be intense.

F22 Guy

August 18th, 2009
6:36 am

I counted on Saxby to save my job but he did not have the political strength to get congress to waste more money, how can he ever get Florida and Alabama to do things that are not in their interest? Face it we have the worse Senators in Congress, they are simply a joke.

Imperial Sugar

August 18th, 2009
7:06 am

Good thing we have Senator Chambliss in our back pocket, all our Florida lands will get all the water they need.

The Masters

August 18th, 2009
8:38 am

Glad I live in Augusta, our Congressmen will only make things worse


August 18th, 2009
9:54 am

Lake Lanier would never have been constructed if it weren’t for the City of Atlanta lobbying for its creation. The fact that the CITY OF ATLANTA did not pay for its construction is a minor point that got overemphasized by Judge Mangnuson in his effort to too quickly dispense with a case he clearly found to be an irritating imposition to his duties back in Minnesota. (Sidebar: what if the City of Atlanta HAD paid for part of the Lake’s construction in the 1940s and 1950s? That still would have left out Cobb, Gwinnett, Fulton, Dekalb and the rest).

I for one am glad our Congressional delegation is beginning to unite and talk seriously about legislation. It should have started 5 years ago. But, if AL and FL block it in Congress, they will have the blood of the 8th largest metropolitan area in the United States on their hands.