Special to SEGAZINE
Welcome back to “the water wars.” Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared on Tuesday that he will file suit against Georgia for its “unchecked and growing consumption of water, which is threatening the economic future of Apalachicola.”
Conflicts over water have been a sad staple of Georgia’s relations with neighboring Florida and Alabama for more than two decades.
“This is our only way forward after 20 years of failed negotiations with Georgia,” Scott said. “We must fight for the people of this region. The economic future of Apalachicola Bay and northwest Florida is at stake.”
Scott’s announcement came one day after the federal government declared that Florida’s oyster-harvesting region is a disaster area due to higher salinity caused by low water levels. The high salinity has increased disease and predator intrusion into the bay. He said his lawsuit would seek injunctive relief against Georgia’s “unmitigated and unsustainable upstream consumption of water from the Chattahoochee and Flint River Basins.
The Apalachicola Bay is the mouth of the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basins, which drain much of Georgia. As most readers know, the Chattahoochee is the main source of water for the metro Atlanta area.
Talks between Georgia and Florida had been making progress until about a year ago, when Florida failed to respond to a proposed “framework” for water use offered by Georgia, according to Gov. Nathan Deal. That framework reportedly involved heightened conservation efforts on our part, among other things.
Scott didn’t sound this week like he’s in a mood for further talks.
“That’s our water,” he told reporters during a press conference while standing next to the Apalachicola Bay.
But not so fast, warned Deal.
“We’re talking about water that falls on Georgia’s soil and flows through the state of Georgia. There’s a reason for us to be protective. We will not roll over. If Florida wants to fight, we’ll fight,” Deal told the Atlanta newspaper. “We think we have plenty of ammunition and that we have shown good faith on our side and the efforts we have made to negotiate a settlement hopefully have been impressive to the court.”
Deal added that he hopes the governors of the states involved — not Congress and not the courts — will be the ones who hash out a final water-use deal.
“I’m always one of those that likes to avoid litigation,” he said.
We’re confident that Deal will stand his ground and protect Georgia’s interest. Florida’s governor can bluster all he likes about how the rain that falls on Georgia and fills its streams belongs to Florida; but that’s about as logical as Deal trying to argue that the waters of Apalachicola Bay — and its harvest of oysters — belong to Georgia.