Ala., Fla. residents react to judge’s ruling in water wars

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist told reporters Wednesday that Judge Paul A. Magnuson’s ruling in litigation involving the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river system was a “huge step in the right direction.”

The judge said Georgia and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had illegally taken water from Lake Lanier, a huge federal reservoir on the Chattahoochee River north of Atlanta, without authorization from Congress. He gave the states three years to get congressional authorization before water use from Lake Lanier is essentially cut off.

“We’ve been arguing that for a long time now, not just this administration but prior ones,” Crist told reporters after an adoption roundtable discussion at the Governor’s Mansion. He gave no indication of what Florida may do next in the dispute.

Alabama, Florida and Georgia have been battling in federal court since 1990 over water from the river system. Alabama and Georgia want water for cities and industries while Florida wants water to protect fish and wildlife along the river and the seafood industry around Apalachicola Bay.

“We know how important water is to us,” Crist said. “We have been blessed in Florida to have an awful lot of water, particularly this season. But that ruling is going to help us that much more. And I’m very happy about it.”

Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue said he is willing to risk the state’s water future in court or before Congress rather than negotiate a deal that he says would be bad for Georgia, according to the Birmingham News. He said last week his state would appeal the judge’s ruling.

U.S. Rep. Allen Boyd, a Florida Democrat, said he hopes the ruling will allow the states “to come together in a constructive way to find an equitable solution that benefits all users along the . . . system,” according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The newspaper today featured the perspectives of Alabama and Florida elected officials and residents in an article entitled “Alabama and Florida See Water Wars Differently.”