APALACHICOLA, FL- The legal battle over water from Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river system appeared to be over after the supreme court refused to hear Florida's latest appeal. But members of Apalachicola Riverkeeper say that may not be the case.
Last Monday the u-s supreme court decided to not hear the appeal of the 11th circuit court of appeals decision to allow the city of Atlanta to take as much as 705 million gallons of water a day from the lake Lanier reservoir. But Apalachicola Riverkeeper executive director, Dan Tonsmeire, says the decision doesn't signal the end of the on-going water wars.
Tonsmeier said, "It puts us back where we were in 1989 when the [U.S. Army] Corps first made the effort to re-allocate the water from Lake Lanier."
The legal battle over the use of water from the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river system has been fought by Alabama, Florida, and Georgia for 22 years.
Florida and Alabama say Georgia is taking more water than it should and it's hurting the Apalachicola Bay system.
"We get less water Coming down the river. The salinity in the bay increases, the temperatures increase. The productivity of all the fisheries essentially in the bay go down. We have less shrimp that are harvested out of the Bay. The oyster beds are decimated by the high salinity which brings in the predators," Tonsmeier said.
Florida's latest appeal to the supreme court asked the U.S. Army corps of engineers to limit the amount of water Georgia takes from lake lanier.
Because justices refused to hear the case, the corps will be allowed to set water amounts for Atlanta. Tonsmeire says the battle is not over yet.
"It says Apalachicola's suit will not be dealt with until the Corps takes it's final agency action. So that's put off until like I said, 3 to 5 years. The other thing is Georgia using that water for a fair and equitable use. To date they claim that all the water that falls in Georgia is Georgia's. They can claim that until hell freezes over, but it's just not true."
Tonsmeire hopes stakeholders in all three states can reach a compromise without more legal battles. Alabama is already poised to file a lawsuit, forcing the U.S. Army corps of engineers to release more water for the Coosa River from Lake Altoona in North Georgia.