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Dust-up in Dixie: Florida to sue Georgia over water use

by John Kennedy | August 13th, 2013

Gov. Rick Scott said Tuesday that Florida will sue Georgia over that state’s water consumption which is reducing flows into the Apalachicola Bay and damaging the oyster industry.

Florida and Alabama have battled Georgia before over the state’s water consumption in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basins for more than two decades. A recent ruling involving the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, however, sided with Georgia, sending Scott looking to the U.S. Supreme Court for the next round of action.

“This lawsuit will be targeted toward one thing – fighting for the future of Apalachicola,” said Scott, who was joined by U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio at a hearing Tuesday in the Gulf Coast city of Apalachicola. “This is a bold, historic legal action for our state. But this is our only way forward after 20 years of failed negotiations with Georgia. We must fight for the people of this region. The economic future of Apalachicola Bay and Northwest Florida is at stake.”

Georgia’s daily consumption is expected to nearly double to 705 million gallons by 2035, with Atlanta’s population largely blamed by Florida officials.

Historically low water levels stemming from Georgia’s consumption have caused oysters to die because of higher salinity in the bay and increased disease and predator intrusion. Oysters in the Bay account for 90 percent of Florida’s oyster supply and 10 percent of the nation’s oyster supply, according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

“Gov. Scott has done all anyone could to resolve this issue with the state of Georgia,” said Florida Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville.  “We don’t like to sue our neighbors but their intransigence has left us no other course.”

UPDATE:

Scott’s fellow Republican, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, called the Florida move a “frivolous waste of time and money.” Deal said Georgia has taken strides in the past year to conserve water and hinted that Scott’s move is aimed at appealing to voters.

“Gov. Scott’s threat to sue my state in the U.S. Supreme Court greatly disappoints me after I negotiated in good faith for two years,” Deal said. “More than a year ago, I offered a framework for a comprehensive agreement. Florida never responded. It’s absurd to waste taxpayers’ money and prolong this process with a court battle when I’ve proposed a workable solution.”

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