Crist, Georgia governor flirt with meeting on river dispute

Gov. Charlie Crist says he would be pleased to meet again with the governors of Alabama and Georgia to discuss a water dispute — after negotiators from the states meet to work on finalizing proposals.

The three states have been battling over water from the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River since 1990. Alabama and Georgia want water for industry and recreation, while Florida wants it to support fish and wildlife in the Apalachicola River and the seafood industry in Apalachicola Bay.

In July 2009, a federal judge told Georgia that he will virtually cut off water supplies to cities around Lake Lanier if Congress does not authorize the use of water from the huge federal reservoir north of Atlanta. The three states agreed in January to a confidentiality agreement that covers their negotiations.

In an e-mail to ACF stakeholders on Monday, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection highlighted portions of U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson’s follow-up ruling on July 21, which faulted the Corps of Engineers for not producing an environmental impact statement for its reservoir operations. The judge also denied Florida’s claims that endangered and threatened mussels and sturgeon in the Apalachicola River were being harmed.

DEP, in its email update, also mentioned an exchange of letters between Crist and Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, who wrote on Aug. 2 to Crist and Alabama Gov. Bob Riley to urge that they meet.

“While all three of us are nearing the end of our terms, I firmly believe we can still reach an agreement that would take our predecessors years to accomplish,” Perdue wrote. (Click here to download the letter.)

In an Aug. 17 response letter, Crist wrote that he was open to meeting if the negotiating teams “engage in a science-based dialogue with a view toward finding a long-term solution that focuses on conservation of water in both the Chattahoochee and Flint Rivers, and ultimately meets the needs of all three states.”

“They should work towards finalizing proposals for our review,” Crist said.

(Story provided by the Florida Tribune. Story copyrighted by Bruce Ritchie and Do not copy or redistribute without permission, which can be obtained by contacting