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Federal judge rejects Alabama, enviro groups' water suits

by Jay Stone

Posted on Aug 18, 2021 at 0:00 AM

On Aug. 11, Judge Thomas Thrash of the U.S. District Court for the Northern district of Georgia rejected claims by the state of Alabama and the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) violated multiple federal laws when planning water controls on the Chattahoochee River.

Alabama wanted the court to set aside the Corps’ 2017 adoption of the Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (ACF) River Basin Water Control Manual (WCM) and Water Supply Storage Assessment. Alabama alleged that the Corps did not adequately consider impacts on wildlife downstream from Atlanta in determining how much water could be withdrawn from the Chattahoochee River.

 Alabama argued that in the process of adopting these standards, the Corps violated the Water Supply Act of 1958, the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, and the Administrative Procedure Act. The NWF alleged that the Corps also ran afoul of the Water Resources Development Act and the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act.

Thrash concluded that the Corps gave sufficient consideration and used appropriate judgement in adopting the WCM and the EIS.

“The ACF Basin Master Water Control Manual Update assures a dependable supply of water from Lake Lanier and the Chattahoochee River to the Atlanta Metropolitan region through the year 2050,” Thrash wrote in the court opinion. “It does so without significant sacrifices to environmental standards and recognizes the need to maintain other uses of the ACF system such as flood control, hydropower generation, fish and wildlife conservation, navigation and recreation. The effect upon the Apalachicola River and Bay will be negligible. The decision was not arbitrary or capricious. The Plaintiffs have not met their burden of showing that this delicate balance should be upset. In the absence of an agreement among Georgia, Florida and Alabama, there is no better alternative.”

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