Florida/Georgia Water Wars: U.S. Supreme Court to Hear Florida Lawsuit against Georgia

On November 4, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court granted the State of Florida’s Motion for Leave to file a bill of complaint against the State of Georgia for the equitable apportionment of the waters of the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin. Florida claims that Georgia is consuming too much water from these shared waters, and the Supreme Court agreed to hear arguments on these matters.

The U.S. Supreme Court has original and exclusive jurisdiction over interstate disputes of sufficient importance. Certainly, allegations that one state is thwarting another state’s ability to obtain its equitable share of waters of an interstate stream meet the “of sufficient importance” standard. Unlike traditional Supreme Court cases heard under the Supreme Court’s certiorari jurisdiction, cases heard under the Court’s original jurisdiction are akin to a traditional civil trial.

The Supreme Court granted Florida’s motion despite the U.S. Solicitor General’s recommendation that the Court should deny the motion until the United States Army Corps of Engineers has issued a revised Master Water Control Manual for the disputed waters. The State of Georgia, in their Opposition to Florida’s Motion, made similar arguments to the United States explaining that “the Corps is currently updating the operating manual . . . and that will directly affect the flow into the Apalachicola River. This court should not indulge Florida’s attempt to disrupt orderly resolution of what has already been a long-running dispute.”

Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens looks forward to a resolution of these issues. As his Law Department Spokeswoman, Lauren Kane, explained “This action gives us the opportunity to address head-on—and defeat—Florida’s ridiculous claims,” Kane said in an email. “Although the time and expense this process will involve is regrettable, [Olens] is confident that Georgia will succeed.”