Georgia: Florida’s Apalachicola River case arguments are ‘rhetoric’
TALLAHASSEE — Arguing that Florida’s case was “built on rhetoric and not on facts,” Georgia is urging the U.S. Supreme Court to reject arguments by the Sunshine State in a long-running battle about divvying up water from a river system.
Georgia attorneys on Friday asked the Supreme Court to deny Florida’s request for an order that could lead to more water flowing south into the Panhandle’s Apalachicola River and Apalachicola Bay. A special master appointed by the Supreme Court sided with Georgia in December, but justices will have final say.
The dispute involves water in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river system, which stretches from northern Georgia to Apalachicola Bay in Franklin County. Florida contends that Georgia uses too much water, damaging a critical Apalachicola Bay oyster fishery.
But in the document filed Friday, Georgia disputed that its water use has caused problems in Florida. Also, it said Florida’s request for an “equitable apportionment” of water — effectively seeking to place limits on Georgia water use — would have major economic ramifications.
“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,” the document said.
In a brief filed in April, Florida lawyers attacked the December recommendation by Special Master
Paul Kelly, who said Florida has not adequately shown that Georgia’s water use caused problems in the Apalachicola River and Apalachicola Bay.
In part, Florida contended in the brief that “Georgia’s insatiable upstream consumption (of water) has decimated Apalachicola’s oyster fisheries.” The brief asked the Supreme Court to rule that “Florida is entitled to a decree equitably apportioning the waters,” which could lead to negotiations involving the states and possibly the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The workday begins early for oyster harvesters Abe Hartsfield, left, and Randy Millender, who come from a long line of oystermen in the Florida Panhandle’s Apalachicola Bay.