Metro Atlanta and Southwest Georgia’s fate hang in water war balance

11:16 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016 Georgia Politics and Government
Oystermen head out early from Eastpoint, Fla. for a day of fishing on the Apalachicola Bay. DAN CHAPMAN / DCHAPMAN@AJC.COM

Philip Perry, lead attorney for Florida’s water wars lawsuit against Georgia, was asked Thursday to comment on the soon-to-end, high-stakes trial. He declined comment, but added: “We don’t talk to the press.”

Perry’s jibe was a not-so-subtle dig at Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal who, earlier in the week, had surprisingly and uncharacteristically discussed the five week trial warning that any court-imposed water reductions would be a “disaster for agriculture.”

Ralph Lancaster Jr., the special master appointed by the U.S. Supreme Court to try and resolve the 27-year-old legal battle between Florida and Georgia over an “equitable apportionment” of the Chattahoochee and Flint rivers, wrapped up the trial later Thursday. He will accept post-trial briefs before making a recommendation to the nation’s high court, perhaps by year’s end.

Lancaster had repeatedly warned attorneys for both states to settle the dispute amongst themselves — and not in the pages of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Gov. Deal’s comments were interpreted as a politically motivated defense of a key Georgia constituency — agriculture.

Southwest Georgia cotton and peanut farmers, in particular, have been singled out by Florida as profligate users of the Flint River and the underlying aquifers to the downstream detriment of oysters, mussels and sturgeon.

Here’s an in-depth story on the high-stakes battle over Georgia, and metro Atlanta’s, water-dependent future.

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