Corps says it can grant Georgia's water request

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has determined it has the authority to grant Georgia's request to draw enough water out of Lake Lanier and the Chattahoochee River to meet the state's needs.

But the Corps, in a filing Tuesday with the federal appeals court in Atlanta, said this does not mean it will grant Georgia's request.

Before making such a determination, the Corps said, it "must complete a thorough review, including public participation, of the environmental impacts, as well as the impacts of other reasonable alternatives."

The Corps' opinion, submitted one day after Georgia won a legal victory before the U.S. Supreme Court, is more good news for the state. After Georgia first submitted its request to Corps in 2000, the Corps denied it.

"Today's decision is great news for Georgia," state Attorney General Sam Olens said. "It clears the way for real predictability and certainty for Georgia's water resources."

In 2000, the state asked the Corps to accommodate Georgia's water needs through 2030. It asked for permission to withdraw 297 million gallons of water a day out of the lake and 408 million gallons of water a day out of the river. The state currently draws less than 500 million gallons of water a day from the reservoir and the river, according to court documents.

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court announced it was declining to hear appeals from Alabama and Florida from a ruling by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta. In that decision, the 11th Circuit overturned decisions by a federal judge overseeing the tri-state water dispute that could have had catastrophic consequences for metro Atlanta.