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Georgia asks for end to SCOTUS water litigation by Florida

by Georgia Farm Bureau

Posted on Jul 08, 2020 at 0:00 AM

On June 26, the state of Georgia filed its response in the Supreme Court battle with Florida over access to water in the Chattahoochee and Flint rivers. In December 2019, Special Master Paul Kelly issued his recommendation that Florida’s request for an “equitable apportionment” order from the court be denied.

Florida filed its exceptions to Kelly’s recommendation in April. The Court continues to accept amicus briefs.

Saying that Florida’s case is based on rhetoric rather than facts, Georgia’s attorneys asked the court to accept Special Master Paul Kelly’s recommendation to deny Florida’s request for a  court-ordered water-sharing plan.

Florida claimed that Georgia overuses water from the two rivers, alleging that this resulted in lower water flows in the Apalachicola River and ultimately to economic harm of the state’s oyster industry in Apalachicola Bay. The Apalachicola River receives water from Lake Seminole on Georgia’s southwest border with Alabama. Lake Seminole is fed by both the Chattahoochee and Flint rivers.

Kelly, the second special master assigned to the case, found that Florida had failed to prove its case.

“The trial record showed that Georgia’s water use had not caused harm to Florida, that Georgia was using far less water than Florida alleged, and that the cap Florida seeks would yield only minuscule benefits to Florida while inflicting enormous costs on Georgia,” Georgia’s attorneys wrote.

Georgia’s response cited Kelly’s analysis, noting that he found Georgia’s water use harmed neither the Apalachicola River or Apalachicola Bay, that the analysis is consistent with existing case law, that Georgia’s use of water from the rivers is reasonable and that Georgia’s conservation efforts, particularly from farmers, have been extensive.

To read Georgia’s filing in its entirety, visit

Two other water-related cases involved the EPA’s Navigable Waters Protection Rule, which went into effect June 22. In the U.S. District Court of Northern California, a group of 17 states requested a preliminary injunction to halt implementation of the rule, but the court denied the injunction. In the U.S. District Court of Colorado, the state of Colorado asked for and received a stay of the rule, but it only applies inside state borders.

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