In the Feb. 23 issue of the Times regarding the decision of the Special Master Ralph Lancaster on the Florida water suit against Georgia, (See A1 “Dunn bill would thwart Corps rules,”). Rep. Dunn states that the ruling ''clearly states that Florida has proven its case.'” That interpretation is a little far-fetched and not what the special master actually ruled.
Lancaster acknowledged that Florida had suffered harm but went on to say Florida has not proven its case ''by clear and convincing evidence'' that capping Georgia's water use would provide material benefit to Florida''. He continued that because Florida had not met that legal burden ''I recommend that the court deny Florida's request for relief.” Folks, even in this new era of ''fake news'' and ''alternative facts,'” Rep Dunn is obviously ''whistling past the graveyard'' with such a statement.
Let's look at a few facts and questions, some of which were included in Mr. Lancaster's ruling:
Some of the most damaging evidence to Florida's case was delivered by hydrology experts from the University of Florida that made it clear more damage to the oyster industry was from poor practice and over-harvesting than from reduced water levels.
Atlanta is not the greedy culprit as usually portrayed in this ''water war;” 88 percent of the water enters the basin south of Atlanta. Atlanta withdraws on average less than 3 percent of the Chattahoochee water for its use and it treats and returns over 75 percent of what it withdraws (in summary, the water Atlanta removes from the final flow into Apalachicola Bay amounts to approximately one-tenth of 1 percent of the total). Today Atlanta uses 20 percent less water than it did before the terrible drought of 2007-09. Less than 60 percent of metro Atlanta water use is from the ACF basin.
Lake Lanier cannot ''save'' the bay. Lanier did not exist before 1957. Droughts occurred before 1957...how did the oysters survive those low flows? During the 2007-09 drought the water flowing into Lake Lanier was cut by over 80 percent but the discharge below the dam remained basically stable. During the crisis the residents and businesses of north Georgia had their water use severely restricted with stiff fines for failure to comply. No such restrictions were put in place in Franklin County. Lake Lanier was lowered 20 feet in an effort to maintain downstream flow.
The oyster difficulties impact the livelihood of thousands across 3000 to 3500 square miles. The severe restriction of water in the upper basin effects the lively-hood of thousands and the ability to take a shower, prepare food, water a garden or take a drink of water for millions over 17,000 square miles.
I have owned a home in the Apalachicola area for over 25 years and have spent some of my happiest moments and met some of my greatest friends during the 8 to 10 weeks a year we spend on the Forgotten Coast. I grew up on the shores of Lake Lanier and now live and work in Atlanta and have similar wonderful memories and have met just as wonderful people from north Georgia.
It is time for the politicians from both states plus Alabama to stop making accusations and start drafting a fair and equitable compromise plan for the basin. We have to ALL eventually realize that this is a resource vital to ALL the residents of the ACF basin, that it is a resource to be shared. We should ALL enjoy the benefits during the good times and we must ALL be willing suffer the pain during the hard times.
Atlanta, GA / St. George Island