Although the drought in metro Atlanta was declared officially over in late March of this year, the war for water is still in full force. Senior U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson has the tough job of sorting out this 19-year long case between Alabama, Florida and Georgia to ultimately answer the question: Who has the right to the water of Lake Lanier?
Lake Lanier is just 50 miles northeast of Atlanta. It feeds into the Chattahoochee River along the border of Alabama and Georgia and the Apalachicola Bay in Florida. Formed in the 1950s by the construction of the Buford Dam, the lake provides water for around 3 million residents in North Georgia. Lawyers representing Alabama and Florida maintain that the lake was formed for three and only three purposes: controlling floods, generating power, and river navigation. Lawyers representing Georgia insist that Congress has always intended for Lake Lanier to serve as a water source for metro Atlanta and surrounding areas.
Further complicating the debate is the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, who are in charge of operating Lanier. A lawyer representing the Corps stated Monday in court that they will complete the new water control plan for the region in 2012. Senior District Judge Magnuson expressed his frustration: People all over the country must be asking, “What in blazes are you doing?” he said looking directly at Ruth Ann Story, the lawyer representing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. It is clear that it will be a long time before the court reaches an opinion, but it also raises the question: does anyone have the right to the water of Lake Lanier?