Supreme Court decision affects Apalachicola River and Gulf of Mexico

The Apalachicola River from Alum Bluff near Bristol.

There was another Supreme Court ruling this week that was important to a few million people, if not the world.

Besides deciding on the Affordable Care Act, the Supreme Court announced Monday it was not taking up an appeals court decision on the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river system, according to The Florida Current.

Alabama, Florida and Georgia have been in court battling over water from the river system for 20 years. At stake for Florida and the rest of the nation is the biodiversity of the Apalachicola River and the health of Apalachicola Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal said the Supreme Court decision means the governors of the states can work together on a water deal. Florida said the decision puts the Apalachicola River and Bay at risk.

There was another announcement on Tuesday. The U. S. Army Corps of Engineers said it has the legal authority to provide cities in North Georgia with 190 million gallons per day from Lake Lanier. That’s the huge federal reservoir on the Chattahoochee River that’s been the heart of the legal dispute for the past few years.

That means the Corps now will go about the process of updating its water control manual for the entire river system, including four federal reservoirs that control the water flowing into Florida. The Corps has been operating since 1989 under draft manuals.

Optimistically, the decision means public hearings, possible environmental studies and draft documents in the coming months and years.

The governors of the states almost struck a secret deal in 2002 on sharing water, a plan that many Florida residents felt would hurt the bay by allowing extended minimum low flows while the big reservoirs in Georgia are allowed to refill.

At least the Corps process offers the possibility of public comment.

(Photo and text copyrighted by Bruce Ritchie and Do not copy or redistribute without permission, which can be obtained from .)