Water wars judge miffed at “progress”

Ralph Lancaster, the so-called special master appointed by the U.S. Supreme Court to resolve 25 years of water war between Georgia and Florida, is clearly not amused.

Earlier this month the curmudgeonly barrister from Maine admonished attorneys for both states to get serious about mediating a resolution to the never-ending dispute over “an equitable apportionment” of the Chattahoochee and Flint rivers — or else.

Georgia and Florida agreed on mediation in November to try yet another way to end the water wars.

“Four months have gone by and the most you can tell me — and I’m quoting now from your progress reports — is, quote, the mediation process is underway, unquote, and that you have, quote, agreed to a basic framework, unquote,” Lancaster said in a March 8 transcript of a conference call between attorneys.

“Let me suggest — and I hope I’m not being too unkindly here — that if you had invested up to 10 percent of the effort and time and expense you have used in discovery on mediation, we would not be here spinning our wheels,” he continued.

Georgia has spent more than $40 million on lawyers to fight the water wars. Seventy attorneys are being paid to prove Georgia’s prudent stewardship of the Chattahoochee and Flint rivers and Florida’s abuse of the Apalachicola river and bay. They’re poring over 4 million documents and 660,000 emails provided by Florida.

The Sunshine State, which sued Georgia in 2013, has received more than 2.1 million pages and 2.3 terabytes of data from Georgia.

“At the next call I expect to have reports that show actual mediation progress,” Lancaster told attorneys. “Let me repeat that. At the next conference call I expect to have reports that show actual mediation progress. Is that clear?”

Attorneys for both states responded “yes, your honor.”

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