Georgia And Alabama Governors Announce Agreement In Chattahoochee River Water Lawsuit

On Tuesday, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp and Alabama Governor Kay Ivey announced that they had reached an agreement with the United States Army Corps of Engineers expected to end a lawsuit brought by Alabama while guaranteeing that both states’ citizens who live and work in the Mid and Lower Chattahoochee River Basin that there will be sufficient minimum water flows during times of drought.

“This agreement is a win-win for our states, with neither side sacrificing what is important to them,” said Kemp. “The Chattahoochee River is the lifeblood of southwest Georgia, and this proposal would give citizens and businesses certainty about the flow of water they need for business and leisure alike. Just as significant, adoption of this proposal would end the current issues related to water supply for metro Atlanta at Lake Lanier, which is crucial to the future of our State. As we put this chapter behind us, I’m thankful for the diligent efforts of Attorney General Chris Carr; my Executive Counsel David Dove; John Allen, Shelly Ellerhorst, and the entire team at KMCL Law; and so many others whose work has made our state proud.”

“I agree with Governor Kemp that this is a win-win solution for both Alabama and Georgia,” said Ivey. “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.”

According to a press release from Kemp’s office, “Under the agreement, 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 on the Chattahoochee River along the States’ border. The proposal also 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.”

“The proposal is being made to resolve litigation Alabama brought challenging the Corps’ operations in the region, including the Corps’ policy allowing Georgia to make water-supply withdrawals near Atlanta. Although this specific case was filed in 2017, litigation between the parties over these issues has been in the courts since 1990,” the press release added.

The Corps’ consideration of the states’ proposal will be subject to a public-comment period and environmental review that could last several months. If the proposal is adopted, the press release said that Alabama will dismiss its appeal following a one-year review period, and the litigation will end. If the Corps does not adopt the proposal, Alabama’s lawsuit will continue.

D & B Staff

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