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Gov. Rick Scott, Georgia Gov. Deal meet privately on water dispute

Tue, Jun 9, 2015

Gov. Rick Scott, Water

Vehicles leave the Florida Governor's Mansion following a meeting between Gov. Rick Scott and Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal. Photo by Bruce Ritchie

Vehicles leave the Florida Governor’s Mansion following a meeting between Gov. Rick Scott and Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott met Tuesday with Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal as part of a continuing round of private meetings to discuss water issues.

Alabama, Florida and Georgia have been fighting in court over water since 1990. In 2013, Florida asked the U. S. Supreme Court to cap Georgia’s water use at 1992 levels to protect water flowing into Apalachicola Bay and the seafood industry there.

Scott wasn’t publicly available to comment on the meeting and Deal left without stopping to comment to reporters outside of the Governor’s Mansion.

“Governor Scott was following up on Governor Deal’s meeting request,” said Jackie Schutz, a spokeswoman for the Florida governor. “Governor Scott will continue to work to protect the families whose livelihoods depend on the Apalachicola Bay.”

Fla. Gov. Rick Scott.

Fla. Gov. Rick Scott.

A spokesman for the Georgia governor said the state would have no comment because of a confidentiality order in the Supreme Court case. The order was requested by both states on April 2 and granted on April 16 by Ralph I. Lancaster Jr., a Maine lawyer who was appointed by the court to oversee the case.

Deal’s trip to Tallahassee comes after Deal’s secretive meeting in March with Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley that touched on Deal’s $300 million plan to build a system of state reservoirs in north Georgia, according to AJC.com.

Ga. Gov. Nathan Deal. Courtesy of Georgia Governor's Office.

Ga. Gov. Nathan Deal. 

“We’ve made good progress on our side of the line, and both governors have indicated a willingness to re-engage to see if we can finalize it,” Deal told the publication in April before the confidentiality order was issued. “It’s better for us to re-engage than have a court try to decide it.”

Last week, Lancaster heard oral arguments in Washington, D. C. on Georgia’s motion to dismiss Florida’s request. He said he would issue a recommendation as soon as possible.

Georgia says Florida is to blame for a crash in the Apalachicola Bay oyster population in 2012 because of its own water use and mismanagement of the shellfish, including allowing the over-harvest in previous years.

And Georgia is arguing that the case should be dismissed even before evidence is submitted because Florida did not include the federal government in the case.

The U. S. Army Corps of Engineers operates five federal dams on the Chattahoochee River that control the flow of water into Florida. Georgia says Florida can’t receive the additional water it wants without it passing through one of those reservoirs.

“It’s Florida, not Georgia, that has created the grounds for dismissal of the case,” said Craig S. Primis, an attorney representing Georgia.

Florida says its dispute is with Georgia — not with Alabama or the Corps of Engineers — and that federal involvement is not required. Florida says if Georgia uses less water from the Chattahoochee and Flint rivers, more water will be available for downstream users regardless of action by the Corps of Engineers.

Florida argued that farm irrigation along the Flint River is at the heart of threat to Florida during droughts, and there are no federal dams on the Flint River controlling water flow.

“This case is about an equitable apportionment of the resource,” said Gregory G. Garre, an attorney representing Florida. “It’s about Florida’s attempt to save the economy, ecology, and environment of a treasured region, not only in Florida, of this country.”

(Story and photo copyrighted by Bruce Ritchie and Floridaenvironments.com. Do not copy or redistribute without permission, which can be obtained from bruceBritchie@gmail.com.)

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