The tri-state water wars between Georgia, Florida, and Alabama are far from over. In fact, they have now been escalated. On October 1, Florida filed a complaint in the United States Supreme Court requesting that the Court equitably apportion the waters of the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (“ACF”) River Basin between Florida and Georgia. Florida argues that Georgia has permitted withdrawals of both surface and groundwater that are allegedly adversely impacting the Apalachicola Region’s ecosystem and economy. Florida cites declines in its fisheries and in particular claims that reduced flows impact oyster fisheries. As support for its complaint, Florida alleges impacts to ecosystems, threatened and endangered species, recreation and Florida’s economy. Georgia has yet to respond, but the state will likely raise issues related to conservation measures implemented by Georgia, Florida’s abandonment of its appeal of endangered species consultations between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Florida’s own over-fishing of the oyster fisheries, and salinity issues created by Florida’s insistence upon Sikes Cut, a navigation channel through St. George Island.
The relief Florida seeks is appointment of a special master to equitably apportion the waters of the ACF River Basin and to cap Georgia’s water use at the level existing on January 3, 1992 (the date associated with the parties’ prior interstate compact), and at levels that ignore over two decades of development.
Florida notes that although Alabama is upstream of Florida, Florida does not believe that Alabama has taken any wrongful action and thus is not named as a party, although Florida would not object to Alabama joining the case. Of course, Florida has supported Alabama’s legislative efforts to limit reservoir reallocations under study by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers through amendments in the reauthorization of the Water Resources Development Act in Congress. Florida chose not to include the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as a party, despite the fact that the Corps operates reservoirs and dams throughout the ACF River Basin.