Georgia plays villain in decade-long water war
Published 3:31 pm Wednesday, March 29, 2006
The water war between Alabama, Georgia and Florida continues to rage after more than a decade.
It appeared that a settlement had been reached two years ago and the papers were prepared for signing, but last-minute negotiations failed and there has been no more progress made for an amicable peace treaty.
The state of Georgia is the villain in the deal.
The bottom line is that Georgia does not really want a treaty because the culprit of the entire problem is the Atlanta metropolitan area.
This metropolis is eating up all of the water needed by all three states.
This dispute actually dates back to 1990 when Alabama filed a lawsuit to try to stop Atlanta from using all of the water from the Coosa and Tallapoosa Rivers and also Lake Lanier in Georgia.
The lawsuit was put on hold after the states agreed to sit down and negotiate, leading to a comprehensive study commission and then to compact negotiations from all sides agreeing to come to a resolution.
The commissioners from all states have made progress while the suit has been stayed.
This went on from 1991 through 1998.
The states' delegates ironed out temporary agreements during this seven-year period, which allowed for existing water users to be able to increase water withdrawal amounts to meet reasonable needs over the period of time necessary for the states to negotiate a solution.
Therefore, the delegates agreed to a live and let live provision accommodating increases in water needs.
The ultimate goal was to develop an allocation formula for the equitable apportionment of surface waters by Dec. 31, 1998.
After these preliminary efforts ended, several lawsuits were filed.
Ultimately two parties who have significant vested interests in the water war, Alabama Power and the Army Corps of Engineers, have been invited into the legal fray.
In July of 2005 Alabama Power filed an application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission which reflected over four years of work in cooperation with the many stakeholders who live around the affected lakes.
As a good corporate citizen, the power company was trying to help the folks around their lakes with a request to keep the water levels the same year round, even if it cost them money.
Therefore, one of the central changes in the Coosa River projects would be to raise the lake levels during the winter time.
To make this change would require an analysis of the flood control capabilities of the Weiss, Henry and Logan Martin Lakes.
This application for maintaining these water levels is on hold pending the Corps of Engineers approval.
In September of 2005 the Corps of Engineers notified the Federal Energy Regulator Commission that because they and Alabama Power were both parties to the pending lawsuits they could no longer participate in the relicensing process and that they could not have any discussions with Alabama Power regarding the Coosa and Tallapoosa Rivers.
As a result, for the time being Alabama Power's ability to raise the water levels at Lakes Logan Martin, Weiss, and Henry is thwarted.
Another albatross created by the never-ending tri-state “water war.”
In the meanwhile on the Legislative front a major accomplishment is surfacing in the form of landmark progressive tax reform to relieve a black eye in our regressive income tax laws.
Currently Alabamians began paying income tax at $4,600 per year, the lowest in the nation.
Under the Knight-Lindsey Plan, which passed the House law week, the threshold will move a family of four from $4,600 to $12,000 before they would began paying any Alabama income tax.
Under the plan, a family of four with an income of $15,000 per year would save $260.
This Legislation is on a fast track, and if passed by the Senate, it will be a significant accomplishment for this election year session, which ends in three weeks.
See you next week.