Kemp, lawmakers respond to Supreme Court ruling declaring Georgia victory in water war with Fla.
ATLANTA (WALB) - On Thursday, the Supreme Court unanimously dismissed Florida’s water lawsuit against Georgia, ending a long-running legal fight between the states.
Gov. Brian Kemp and Attorney General Chris Carr issued statements in regards to the water ligation ruling.
“The Supreme Court’s unanimous decision is a resounding victory for Georgia and a vindication of a years-long effort by multiple governors and attorneys general here in the Peach State to protect our citizens’ water rights. Our state will continue to wisely manage water resources and prioritize conservation, while also protecting Georgia’s economy and access to water.”
Gov. Brian Kemp
“Today, the Supreme Court of the United States, in a unanimous decision, affirmed what we have long known to be true: Georgia’s water use has been fair and reasonable. We will continue to be good stewards of our water resources, and we are proud to have obtained a positive resolution to this years-long dispute on behalf of all Georgians.”
Attorney General Chris Carr
“This verdict by the Supreme Court is a major victory for all Georgians. Not only do we rely on the Apalachicola - Chattahoochee - Flint water basin water source for drinking water, but the farmers in this region are dependent on it for their livelihoods. Throughout the years, our state and the agribusiness industry have been good stewards of water resources through conservation measures, good farming practices and being fair and reasonable. There is no doubt this played into the Supreme Court’s decision.”
Bill Yearta, Georgia House of Representatives, District 152
In the decision handed down, the court held that Florida “failed to carry its burden” to prove that Georgia’s consumption of water from the ACF Basin caused the collapse of Florida’s oyster fisheries or harm to its river ecosystem.
On the contrary, the decision states “Florida’s own documents and witnesses revealed that Florida allowed unprecedented levels of oyster harvesting in the years before the collapse” and also “failed to adequately reshell its oyster bars.” Further, “the data and modeling of its own experts … show[ed] that Georgia’s consumption had little to no impact on the Bay’s oyster population.” The Court also found “a complete lack of evidence that any river species suffered serious injury” from Georgia’s consumption.”
The court concluded: “In short, Florida has not met the exacting standard necessary to warrant the exercise of this Court’s extraordinary authority to control the conduct of a coequal sovereign. We emphasize that Georgia has an obligation to make reasonable use of Basin waters in order to help conserve that increasingly scarce resource. But in light of the record before us, we must overrule Florida’s exceptions to the Special Master’s Report and dismiss the case.”
The courts have finally ruled and the decision was 9-0 in favor of Georgia to dismiss the case. The issue has been going on for decades and Georgia was in the right at every level, also many past administrations helped lay the groundwork for the favorable decision. Approximately $50 million in legal fees was spent for Georgia and Florida spent well over $120 million on the legal process. One would think that this issue should have been settled years ago, but unfortunately that the way the system works. Thankfully it’s now settled. This is a HUGE victory for Georgia and the people of Georgia since over 75% of our drinking water and other uses like agriculture were directly affected. Water is simply our most precious commodity, it is the elixir of life.
Carden Summers, Georgia Senator 13th District
In 2013, Florida brought an original action against Georgia in the U.S. Supreme Court.
Florida argued that Georgia’s consumption of water in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (ACF) River Basin caused low flows in the Apalachicola River, which harmed Florida’s oyster fisheries and river ecosystem. As a remedy, Florida asked the court to cap Georgia’s consumption in the basin.
The court accepted the case and referred it to a special master. After 18 months of discovery and a five-week trial, the special master issued a report recommending that the Court deny Florida relief. The Supreme Court reviewed that report and sent the case back to the special master to make further findings and recommendations, including whether Florida had proved any serious injury caused by Georgia; the extent to which reducing Georgia’s water consumption would increase Apalachicola River flows; and the extent to which any increased Apalachicola flows would redress Florida’s injuries.
After further briefing and a hearing, a new special master issued an 81-page report that again recommended that the Supreme Court deny Florida relief. Florida filed exceptions to that report with the Supreme Court. After more briefing and oral argument, the court issued Thursday’s decision, which overruled Florida’s exceptions to the special master’s report and dismissed the case.
You can read the full Supreme Court ruling here:
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