The judge appointed by the U.S. Supreme Court to resolve the decades-long “water war” between Georgia and Florida hinted at one possible outcome Tuesday during the second day of trial in Maine.
The two states, along with Alabama, attemped nearly 30 years ago to create a lasting, congressionally approved “compact” to ensure steady flows of water from Georgia into the Sunshine State. The compact fell apart in 2003 amid finger-pointing and claims of bad faith.
Ralph Lancaster, the special master selected by the nation’s highest court to end the 27-year-long water war, queried a witness Tuesday morning on the water-sharing deal.
“In your opinion,” Lancaster asked, “was the compact a good thing?”
Ted Hoehn, a biologist with Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, said yes.
“We had great hopes for it,” Hoehn testified before blaming Georgia for its demise.
The so-called tri-state compact fell apart and a history of litigation and acrimony ensued. Florida again sued Georgia in 2013 claiming irreperable harm to its oyster industry and Apalachicola River ecosystem due to a lack of insufficient water flowing from the Chattahoochee and Flint rivers into the Sunshine State.
“A collaborative resolution between the states would be welcome,” said Kevin Jeselnik, an attorney with the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper attending the trial in Portland. “We hold out hope that the eventual solution is not court-ordered, but a compromise between the states that advances water-saving measures across the basin.”
He cautioned, though, that interstate compacts are largely the purview of the legislative, not judicial, branch of government.
Read more about the water wars trial here: