News Feature | April 21, 2014

As States Battle For Basin, Activists Keeps Data Close To Vest

By Sara Jerome
@sarmje

acfreg

As the Tri-State Water War continues to fester, stakeholders are taking additional pains to keep their data secret. 

The Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (ACF) Stakeholders, an advocacy group, is conducting a confidential study pertaining to the contentious water-use battle that has consumed Alabama, Florida, and Georgia for decades. The focal point of the dispute is the ACF, a southeastern river basin. 

The backdrop is that these three states have starkly different interests when it comes to the basin. The ACF Stakeholders group attempts to include interests from all three states in an apparent effort to reach a compromise. 

But the governors of these states continue to squabble.

Georgia "wants to have enough water to continue growing, particularly in booming metro Atlanta," according to the Southern Environmental Law Center. 

"Alabama is concerned that Atlanta’s ever-increasing thirst for water will severely limit its own use of water for power generation, fisheries and other uses," the center said. 

"Florida wants enough freshwater to reach the Apalachicola Bay to sustain its multi-million dollar shellfish industry," the center said. "Florida says that metro Atlanta uses too much water, leaving too little for downstream communities, businesses, and wildlife," Associated Press reported

Now, as the ACF Stakeholders group conducts a major study on basin issues, it is planning to keep its findings confidential. "The organization, which is paying for a data-driven study of the river basin that includes Lake Lanier, plans to follow through on a December vote by members to keep findings secret when it meets again," the Gainesville Times recently reported

“We won’t be able to be as open as we were in the past,” James McClatchey, governing board chairman, told the Times

Why is the group staying mum?

"The ACF Stakeholders has tried to clamp down on information since Florida filed suit in the U.S. Supreme Court on Oct. 1, alleging increased water consumption by Georgia had limited flows into Apalachicola Bay and wrecked the oyster industry," the report said. 

In the past, ACF Stakeholders has worked against official Florida efforts on this issue, a statement from the group indicates. Florida has requested that the Supreme Court intervene. 

"Florida officials have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to divide up the water rights in the Chattahoochee, Flint and Apalachicola rivers. The river system serves Alabama, Florida, and Georgia," the AP reported. "Georgia Governor Nathan Deal said Florida should negotiate a solution, not litigate." 

Litigation has driven the Stakeholders underground. 

“Because of the lawsuit, we put into place certain confidentiality requirements that all our membership is now obligated to,” the Stakeholders' McClatchey told the Times

For more on water politics, check out Water Online's Regulations and Legislation Solution Center

Image credit: "Chattahoochee River Between Phenix City, Alabama and Columbus, Georgia," Ken Lund © 2005, used under an Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/deed.en

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