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Federal judge rules Georgia water deal for US reservoir use invalid

[JURIST] A federal court of appeals judge struck down [ruling, PDF] a 2003 agreement between Georgia and the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) [official website] allowing the state's use of a federal water reservoir. Judge Judith Rogers of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit [official website] ruled that the agreement violates the Water Supply Act [text] because it allowed the Corps to make major operational changes to the Lake Lanier reservoir [USACE backgrounder] without prior Congressional approval as required by the Act. Alabama and Florida had contested the agreement, arguing that Georgia has no rights to the federal reservoir and that the state's use of that water could drain Alabama and Florida's smaller rivers. Alabama Gov. Bob Riley called [press release] the ruling "the most consequential legal ruling in the 18-year history of the water war" between Georgia, which requires more water to feed the increasingly urban Atlanta area, and its neighboring states. Officials at the Georgia governor's office are considering an appeal to the Supreme Court.

The US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] earlier ruled in favor of Georgia, saying that the Corps of Engineers did not exceed its authority. In its reversal, the Court of Appeals noted that the diversion of about 22 percent of the reservoir's water to the Atlanta area, as proposed by the agreement, would directly impact Florida and Alabama, which are downstream from Georgia. AP has more.

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