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Water Wars

May 21st, 2009 by Mike Vasilinda

A legal battle over water that began in 1990 is closer to ending. A
Federal Judge in Jacksonville is now considering whether to order the
Army Corps of Engineers to begin releasing more water from dams in
Georgia for use in Alabama and Florida. As Mike Vasilinda tells us, a
drought saw more water going to supply Atlanta while fish stocks in
Florida suffered.

Freshwater flow into Apalachicola Bay is crucial for oyster, shrimp, and
fish production. The bay produces 10 percent of the nations oysters.
Estuaries hatch many of the fish found in the Gulf.

But as Atlanta faced drought conditions, the water flow in the river has
been cut. Its a battle environmentalists have been fighting for decades.

A drought is a natural, recurring event in nature,” David McLain, founder of Apalachicola Riverkeepers said. “If you have a
recurring event in nature, you can plan for it. And it hasnt been
planned for by the people who are the water users upstream. Their only
plan is to take more cheap water out of the Chattahoochee, and that
water then doesnt come down here to us.

Last summers water reduction was felt almost immediately.

Youve got to have the perfect conditions,” oyster processor Darren Guillotte said. “Perfect water, perfect environment for the oysters to grow.

A senior federal judge in Jacksonville is now considering whether the
Army Corps of engineers exceeded its authority when it water to Atlanta
without congressional approval.

The judges decision could be devastating for a way of life and an
ecosystem dependent on a delicate balance of fresh and saltwater.

There ought to be some way, based on science, to adjudicate competing
demands,” McLain said.

While still facing drought conditions, Lake Lanier Outside Atlanta is
rising, taking some of the pressure off water managers, but offering
little in the way of a long term solution.

Recent Federal appeals court decisions, and a US Supreme
Court decision support Florida and Alabamas claim to a fair share of
the water that has been diverted. From the bench last week, the Federal
judge said the decision would result in some happy and some sad people .

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