The US Army Corps of Engineers’ (USACE) Water Control Manual and Environmental Impact Statement for the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (ACF) River Basin released last week, finally provides scientific analysis supporting Georgia’s request for increased water withdrawals from the Chattahoochee River south of Lake Lanier. The plan’s proposal would substantially increase the water withdrawals from Lake Lanier and the Buford Dam and also allow withdrawals from the Glades Reservoir that would satisfy Georgia’s future municipal and industrial water supply needs for 2040.
USACE developed and analyzed numerous alternatives for the ongoing water management of the ACF Basin, specifically considering flood risk management, water quality, water supply, fish and wildlife conservation, recreation, hydroelectric power, navigation and drought contingency. After thorough analysis of existing conditions and potential outcomes, both beneficial and adverse, a Proposed Action Alternative (PAA) was selected. This alternative provides for increased water withdrawals to meet Georgia’s future water supply needs as the Atlanta Metropolitan Region grows to 8 Million in population, and also concluded the approach would have a negligible impact on terrestrial biological resources in the ACF River Basin. USACE will be holding a series of public hearings to discuss the Manual update, the first of which will be held in Gainesville, GA on Monday, October 26th at 4:00 at the Gainesville Civic Center. The Council for Quality growth will continue to closely monitor the update and its role in ongoing state legislation and the Region’s economic development and growth opportunities.
Last updated in 1989, the ACF Basin Water Control Manual Update is a result of a federal action following the July 2009 federal district court order in the case In re Tri-State Water Rights Litigation. The Tri-State Water Wars, involving Georgia, Alabama and Florida, have been in litigation for over 25 years. The States of Alabama and Florida have been challenging the State of Georgia and the USACE’s water supply operations and withdrawals for Metro Atlanta, claiming an adverse impact on Alabama’s portion of the ACF Basin’s water supply and Florida’s shellfish industry in the Apalachicola Bay. In 2011, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit issued a critical decision finding that water supply is a congressionally authorized purpose of Lake Lanier and the Chattahoochee, and redefined USACE’s scope to address the Atlanta area’s water supply in the Water Control Manual update. Most recently, in November 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case brought by the State of Florida, against the State of Georgia for an “equitable apportionment” of the waters of the ACF Basin.