Special Master Begins Hearing Arguments In Florida-Georgia AFC Water Fight

Oct 31, 2016

Credit Jessica Palombo / WFSU News

A trial over a 26-year water fight between Florida and Georgia is underway before the U.S. Supreme Court.  A special master appointed by the court began hearing arguments Monday. 

Florida officials want the Supreme Court to impose water withdrawal limits on Georgia. They say Georgia has taken too much water from the Apalachicola-Flint-Chattahoochee system—causing low flows which jeopardize the fragile Apalachicola Bay and its oyster industry.

Apalachicola River Keeper Executive Director Shannon Lease is hopes "that the Supreme Court rules the flow from the Chattahoochee and Flint goes into the Apalachicola and sustains the fishery that’s in the Apalachicola Bay.”

Meanwhile Georgia attorneys argue a water cap would hurt the city of Atlanta as well as the state’s agriculture industry.  But the Franklin Promise Coalition's Joe Taylor doesn't buy that argument.

“The fact is, the water flows have been greatly reduced and they’re at their lowest point ever in the history of documentation. So there has to be some impact here," he says.

Science is trickier. The Army Corps of Engineers recently updated its water use plan for the system and did not include the Bay. It was declared a fishery disaster area in 2013.

The water fight has raged for more than two decades. The Associated Press says the special master will make a recommendation to the Supreme Court, which has final say.