Victory at last – Yes, but victories don’t come quick or cheap.
Last week, Judge Paul Magnuson issued his ruling in Phase 2 of the Water Wars litigation His decision amounts to a major victory for us, and the first decision that has gone in Georgia’s favor.
In this phase 2, Florida asked the court to require that we send more water across the state line into Florida to protect endangered mussels and sturgeon. LLA and Georgia lawyers argued against this, telling the court that any harm to the protected species was the result of low basin inflow (caused by the unprecedented drought in 2007-2008), not the Corps’ operations of the ACF system. Because a new Water Control Plan (WCP) is being written by the Corps for implementation in 2012, we stated that no changes (ex. more water into Florida) should be made at this time. Judge Magnuson saw things the same way, and ruled accordingly.
The clear loser is Florida, which failed to convince the court that more water must be sent across the state line to protect the species. In fact, the Judge did not even suggest that the minimum required flow of 5,000 cfs is required. Further the Judge did not invalidate the Action Zones established by the Corps to support recreation in Lanier. In sum, the court gave no practical relief to Florida on issues that would have negatively affected the people and businesses that use and rely on LakeLanier.
While Governor Riley of Alabama claimed that this Phase 2 decision was a victory for Alabama, the facts indicate otherwise. Alabama asked the court to set aside the Revised Interim Operating Plan (RIOP) and to prevent the Corps from considering water supply in the new WCP. Judge Magnuson ruled against all of Alabama’s requests.
Although our legal team under Clyde Morris has accomplished a great deal, this is not the end of our efforts in the Water Wars. Phase 1 is under federal appeal and Florida could appeal this Phase 2 decision. The new Water Control Plan is under development, and the issue of water supply for north Georgia has not been concluded. We will continue to represent our stakeholders’ interests in this litigation and to protect Georgia’s Great Lake. The Judge’s decision and more details are available on our web site.
The Lake Lanier Association is the only Lanier “watch dog” for recreation, and the only non-municipality or power company participating in this litigation. LLA has incurred a very large debt (almost $100,000 net after payments) for legal expenses. While we have managed to maintain a prudently low level of legal costs, this major debt must be retired. Our normal dues and fund raising activities cannot reduce the debt, so we are reestablishing our “legal defense retirement fund.” We are asking for contributions from our stake holders. Contributions can be made through a check to our office or on our Web site via PayPal.
Thank you very much in advance for your support,
The Lake Lanier Association Board of Directors
Please note Legal Defense Fund on your checks and mail to our office at
Lake Lanier Association
615F Oak Street, Suite 100
Gainesville, GA 30501