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US Georgia gains major court victory over Florida in decades-long dispute over Apalachicola Bay water use

06:20  13 december  2019
06:20  13 december  2019 Source:   usatoday.com

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The Supreme Court Wednesday sided with Florida in its decades - long fight with Georgia over water rights, sending the case back to a special master. Read More:U.S. Supreme Court ruling on ' Water Wars' imminent but battle to save Apalachicola Bay won't end soon. The decision is also a victory

Georgia and Florida have been fighting over water for nearly 30 years. Florida says Georgia uses too much from the rivers that the states share TONSMEIRE: The only place to get that is for Georgia to use less. SAMUEL: So Florida asked the Supreme Court to limit how much water Georgia is

A judge has recommended the Supreme Court side with Georgia over Florida in a decades-long water dispute.

The court should reject Florida's request to limit how Georgia uses water from shared rivers, U.S. Circuit Judge Paul Kelly Jr. wrote in a ruling issued Wednesday.

Since the 1990s, Florida has alleged Georgia used too much water from the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin, hurting residents of the Sunshine State. Florida officials also argued decreased flows caused the collapse of an oyster fishery in Apalachicola Bay, but Kelly said the state failed to prove the issue was Georgia's fault.

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The decades - long dispute is over how much water Georgia can take from its rivers. Michel martin, host: Access to water is also front and center The case pits Florida against Georgia , and the case affects oystermen in Florida , farmers in south Georgia and people and businesses in Atlanta.

The states ' battle over water use dates back to 1990, and includes drawn-out negotiations and Others hailed Lancaster's recommendation as a victory for Georgia following months of worry that Florida 's 2013 lawsuit sought a cap on Georgia 's water use , blaming farmers and booming metro

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“We are pleased with Special Master Kelly's recommendation and especially his recognition of Georgia’s significant water conservation and efficiency efforts," Katherine Zitsch, director of the Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District, said in a statement. "Since 2001, water withdrawals in metro Atlanta have dropped by more than 10%, even as our population has increased by 1.3 million.”

a boat on a body of water: Florida State University's marine science lab will use $8 million from the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill settlement to rebuild Apalachicola Bay's oyster farming industry.© Mark Wallheiser/AP Florida State University's marine science lab will use $8 million from the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill settlement to rebuild Apalachicola Bay's oyster farming industry.

Noah Valenstein, secretary of Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection, said the agency was “extremely disappointed” in the judge’s recommendation.

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The US Supreme Court heard arguments on Monday in a bitter fight over water pitting two American states against each other. On one side in the decades -old dispute is the state of Georgia . On the other is its southern neighbor, Florida .

Florida ’s proposed cap on Georgia ’s water use would restrict the state ’s use to 1992 levels. The Atlanta metro area’s population has increased I am glad that the court ruled in Florida ’s favor today and we look forward to further securing a healthy Apalachicola Bay while protecting the thousands of

“The state of Florida remains committed to restoring the historic flows of the Apalachicola River and the families who rely on this river for their livelihood,” Valenstein said in a statement.

The collapse of the fishery that once produced 10% of the nation's oysters has jeopardized the livelihood of many Florida oystermen and the economic vitality of coastal communities where seafood is the primary industry.

'Water Wars': Supreme Court ruling imminent but battle to save Apalachicola Bay won't end soon

Ten years ago, the Apalachicola Bay supported several hundred oyster boats harvesting about 20 bags per day. Today, only a dozen or so boats patrol the bay, collecting just two bags of oysters daily.

Kelly did not support Florida's argument that diverting water to Georgia increases salinity in the bay, which kills oysters.

Kelly is the second judge the Supreme Court appointed to review the case. In 2017, Special Master Ralph Lancaster Jr. also sided with Georgia, determining that while Florida had suffered harm from the decreased water flow in the river basin, it had not proven that limiting the amount of water Georgia consumed would provide the relief it sought.

But last year, the Supreme Court ruled that Lancaster was too strict in his decision and remanded the case for further consideration.

Contributing: Nicquel Terry Ellis, USA TODAY; The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Georgia gains major court victory over Florida in decades-long dispute over Apalachicola Bay water use

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