It was almost one year ago — June 28, 2011 — when the Eleventh Circuit Court in Atlanta threw out a 2009 ruling by Senior U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson, who had ruled it was illegal for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to allow Atlanta to siphon drinking water out of the reservoir.
The ruling of the three-judge panel a year ago said the wording of the Rivers and Harbors Act, which authorized construction of the Buford Dam, “clearly indicates that water supply was an authorized purpose of the Buford Project.”
Gov. Nathan Deal praised the ruling and issued a statement that said, “We can now move forward with the issue behind us, have the governors work together and come to a long-term agreement that will provide for the water needs of all three states.”
Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens called the Eleventh Circuit ruling “excellent.” Olens said in a press release: “It is my hope that we can finally put this decades-long legal dispute to rest and work together with our sister states — in meeting rooms, not courtrooms — to develop a fair and equitable water sharing plan and promote a strong and vibrant Southeastern region.”
Rome Water and Sewer Division Director Leigh Ross said the idea of working out a solution to the long-standing water issue in a meeting room is a nice idea, but history has not been kind to that concept.
“I don’t think this will be solved in the next decade,” Ross said. “Until someone who has authority over the state can make a decision on a regional basis rather than on a state-by-state basis, each entity is going to continue to look after its own interest. History has shown that they’re not going to be able to come to a compromise. The last two decades that hasn’t been done.”
Joe Cook, executive director of the Coosa River Basin Initiative, said that it was kind of silly to think of Lake Lanier not being used as a source of water for metro Atlanta. He said it only makes sense to use existing reservoirs in the most efficient manner possible while still protecting the interest of communities downstream.
“If we don’t have access to those federal reservoirs then the perceived need to build additional reservoirs is greater,” Cook said. “From an environmental perspective, for the Upper Coosa, I think this is probably a good decision because it takes pressure off some of the smaller streams that the dam builders have their sights on.”