Author: Brandon Middleton
Much of Georgia depends on Lake Lanier for their water supply. There is an ongoing dispute concerning how much of Lake Lanier's water should be devoted downstream to endangered species in Florida. After a two-year water shortage, folks in Georgia are well aware of how the Endangered Species Act can be used to put fish ahead of people, even during a drought. Now they are in court in an attempt to add a dose of reasonableness to the ESA:
Memories of the two-year drought that drained Lake Lanier to a historic low are about to be revived in the courtroom.
Oral arguments could take place in June or July over the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ operation of the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin — another thorny issue in Georgia’s ongoing water battle with Alabama and Florida.
Florida invoked the Endangered Species Act to force the corps to maintain higher flows during the 2007-09 drought to protect several threatened and endangered species in the Apalachicola River, which winds through the Panhandle to the Gulf of Mexico.
That set off a political barrage from Georgia, including Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, who said he found it "unconscionable" the Sunshine State would "elevate the water needs of the bankclimber and fat three-ridge mussel over … human beings."
Legal briefs have been filed in the case.
The Gainesville-based Lake Lanier Association also has jumped into the fray, with its attorney, Clyde Morris, asking U.S. District Court Judge Paul Magnuson to rule that the Endangered Species Act doesn’t require such high flows.
"All we're saying is let's do the right thing for everybody," said Val Perry, executive vice president of the organization.
"It's not just mussels first and doggone the rest of it. It's let's make sure we have a balanced approach to managing this whole system."