Alabama-Georgia declare Water War truce after 33 years of litigation

Chattahoochee River (Pat Byington / The Bama Buzz)

The governors of Alabama and Georgia have reached an agreement with the United States Army Corps of Engineers to end the long-running “Water Wars” lawsuit that was first filed by Alabama in 1990.

According to a news release issued by Governor Kay Ivey, the agreement assures both states’ citizens who live and work in the Mid- and Lower Chattahoochee River Basin of sufficient minimum water flows during times of drought.

33-year old Water War

Called the “Tri-State Water Wars” or the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (ACF) and the Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa (ACT) dispute, the litigation began three decades ago when Alabama sued the Corps to prevent it from providing the Atlanta metro area water from Lake Lanier and Altoona Lake.

“Alabama and Georgia have a lot in common. But we have spent a lot of time — and a lot of money on attorney fees — fighting in court over water. This proposal is a big deal for Alabama as the Corps has never before set minimum water-flow objectives in the parts of the Chattahoochee that affect us. It would provide Alabama with long-term assurances that, in times of drought, our citizens will be protected, and our stakeholders will know how much water is coming their way.”

~ Governor Kay Ivey

What’s in the agreement? From the Governor Ivey’s news release:

  • The Corps of Engineers will begin formally considering a first-of-its-kind proposal to operate its dams and reservoirs to achieve minimum water-flow objectives at Columbus, Georgia, and Columbia, Alabama (which is located north of Dothan on the Chattahoochee River along the States’ border
  • The proposal provides that the Corps would continue to maintain the necessary minimum elevation at Lake Seminole, located in southwest Georgia, approximately twenty miles southwest of Bainbridge.

“This agreement is a win-win for our states, with neither side sacrificing what is important to them.”

~Governor Brian Kemp

River advocates encouraged, urge state water plan

The Coosa River in Downtown Wetumpka (Pat Byington/The Bama Buzz

Cindy Lowry, Alabama Rivers Alliance’s  Executive Director looks forward to reading the agreement and hopes the state will now turn its attention to developing a statewide water plan.

 “It is encouraging to see these two governors seeking collaborative solutions to this decades-long fight over such a vital resource as water. The devil is, of course, in the details and we look forward to reviewing the agreement and providing comments. While this agreement focuses on the water from the Chattahoochee, there are still other shared river basins between Alabama and other neighboring states. We hope that with this litigation potentially ending, our state will have more time to develop an Alabama Water Plan, which will ensure our water resources within our borders are protected and resilient for people and nature now and into the future.”

~ Cindy Lowry, Alabama Rivers Alliance Executive Director

Pending Corps approval

What’s next? Even though Alabama and Georgia have come to a proposed agreement, for the Corps to consider and accept the proposal it must go through an environmental review and public-comment period, which will take months. If the Corps does not adopt the proposal, the Alabama lawsuit will start-up again.

Pat Byington
Pat Byington
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