So the states, Georgia mostly, went to court. After a convoluted series of decisions and appeals, Georgia got a ruling that metro Atlanta could draw water from Lake Lanier.
At that point Alabama and Florida turned to Congress, where senators from those states were able to add a provision to the 2013 Water Resources Development Act that said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would have to seek congressional approval if a municipality or industry’s request for water changed the approved water-storage plans of a federal reservoir by 5 percent or more. Georgia’s requests exceed the 5 percent.
Realizing this and not wanting Congress to get into the act, Georgia’s senators went to work and got the provision removed. Senators from Alabama and Florida sought to get the provision restored. The U.S. Senate sided Wednesday with Georgia, voting 83-14 not to limit Georgia’s water use from the two reservoirs.
In a joint statement, Georgia’s senators stressed that they opposed the 5-percent plan because they “always believed that this dispute must be solved at the state level, not in Washington.” They added that their version urges state leaders to negotiate.
In recent months, Georgia has shown little interest in a negotiated settlement. The 5 percent plan might have forced that state back to the bargaining table. Not adding it to the Water Resources Development Act leaves things as they are, and our neighbor to the east is certainly comfortable with that.
However, the status quo is not what is best for Alabama and Florida. That’s why the better option — particularly for our state — was to have the 5 percent plan restored and approved.
It that had happened, it was possible the states could begin serious negotiations and end this water war once and for all. Now, we’re not so sure.