Georgia: Florida’s Apalachico­la River case ar­gu­ments are ‘rhetoric’

Orlando Sentinel - - Local & State - By Jim Saun­ders

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.

TAIMY AL­VAREZ/SOUTH FLORIDA SUN SEN­TINEL

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.

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