The Water Wars – June 29, 2011

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday June 28, 2011 overturned a 2-year-old decision barring use of Lake Lanier water by Atlanta and other municipalities.

The original 2009 ruling by Senior U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson found it was illegal for the Corps of Engineers to draw water from Lake Lanier to meet the needs of 3 million metro Atlanta Georgia residents.

The new ruling by a three judge panel released the Army Corps of Engineers from judicial mandate concering water use and allocation, instead infering that the USACE should make the final decision.

One interesting point of law overturned by the appeal was the original Judge’s assertion that the reservoir was never intended to supply fresh water to Georgia municipalities. Some assert that the original federal legislation authorizing construction of the Buford Dam, which created Lake Lanier, did not list freash water supply as intended use.

In his original ruling, the Judge opposing fresh water for the Atlanta region contended that Lake Lanier water was all to be held for flood control, used for power generation, or sent downstream for use by Florida and Alabama. The specific legislative uses are flood control, power generation and navigation.

Constitutionally, the Federal Government plays a role in disputes between states, in this case between Georgia, Florida and Alabama. (2011-06-28 court tosses water restriction on-metro atlanta)