Gov. Rick Scott, who was joined by the Sunshine State's Republican Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson, today declared that Florida would take its fight against Georgia to the U.S. Supreme Court in September.
"Georgia has not negotiated in good faith to fairly share the waters that flow between our two states," he said in a statement.
The lawsuit, he argued, would attempt to stop Georgia's "unchecked" water consumption in an effort to protect parts of Florida, including the Apalachicola River's fisheries, oyster industry, and the future economic growth of the greater northwest part of the state. According to the Associated Press, Scott's announcement comes one day after federal officials declared the region a disaster area as its oyster industry has fallen apart due to drought and decreased water flow.
"This lawsuit will be targeted toward one thing - fighting for the future of Apalachicola," Scott said. "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 states have feuded for years over how to share the natural resource. Florida and Alabama have both claimed that Georgia's rising water use, particularly from Lake Lanier, has caused harm. The neighboring states have tried over the years to challenge the water management practices of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which oversees the metro Atlanta's primary source of drinking water. In June 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it wouldn't review the 23-year "water war" case involving Alabama, Florida, and Georgia. Both neighboring states had hoped to challenge Georgia's ability to tap Lake Lanier as a water supply.
Gov. Deal expressed his disappointment over Florida's threatened legal action after working "in good faith" to come to an agreement. He says that Florida never responded to his rough proposal more than a year ago.
"It's absurd to waste taxpayers' money and prolong this process with a court battle when I've proposed a workable solution," Deal said in a statement. "Georgia has made significant progress on water conservation and has proposed an agreement that would meet the needs of both states. While the timing seems to work for political purposes, it's ironic this comes at a time when Florida and Georgia are experiencing historically high rainfall."
Deal added: "The fastest and best resolution is an agreement, not a lawsuit going into an election year. On the flip side, the merits of Georgia's arguments have consistently prevailed in federal court, and a victory in the U.S. Supreme Court would decide this issue in Georgia's favor once and for all."
@ Roxanne Dimacale
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