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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Court overturns water wars verdict, tells U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to get to work

Huge news for every man, woman, child, corporation and house pet that depends on water from Lake Lanier — and for those keeping score in Georgia's ongoing "water war" with Alabama and Florida.

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals today overturned a judge's ruling that threatened to drastically reduce metro Atlanta's withdrawals from Lake Lanier if the three states couldn't negotiate a truce. (Wanna read the 96-page ruling with us? Here it is in PDF form.) Reports Dave Williams:

Tuesday’s decision remanded the tri-state water dispute back to the U.S.Army Corps of Engineers , giving the agency one year to make a final determination of its authority to operate the dam.

[Federal Judge Paul] Magnuson’s ruling had given the three states three years to work out a water allocation agreement. Absent a settlement, under his order, water withdrawals from Lake Lanier were to be reduced in July 2012 to levels not seen since the 1970s.

The decision represented a huge victory for Georgia, which has argued that the reservoir was intended as a water supply.

Bill Rankin touches on the errors the three-judge panel thinks Magnuson made. He adds:

The 11th Circuit panel reminded the Corps that the water litigation has been ongoing for more than two decades.

"Progress towards a determination of the Buford Dam’s future operations is of the utmost importance to the millions of power customers and water users that are affected by the operations of the project," the court said. "The stakes are extremely high, and all parties are entitled to a prompt resolution. Accordingly, the process for arriving at a conclusion of the bounds of the Corps’ authority should be as swift as possible without sacrificing thoroughness and thoughtfulness."

More to come, including the glowing press statements from state officials who are surely giddy over today's opinion. In other, somewhat-related news, Lake Lanier's starting to look a little low.

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