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Federal agency takes on water war

Meeting may help resolve tri-state basin conflict

POSTED: October 29, 2008 5:00 a.m.

A federal agency charged with resolving environmental, natural resource and public lands issues and conflicts has conducted an assessment on a possible role in finding a solution to the tri-state water war.

The U.S. Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution has scheduled a series of meetings next week along the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river basin, including one Wednesday in Buford.

Brian J. Manwaring, a program manager with the Tucson, Ariz.-based institute, said he will present the results of an initial assessment that was started at the request of a number of stakeholders on the river system.

"Hopefully, we’ll be able to offer some idea of what things we think the group might be able to address and some process steps for moving forward," Manwaring said in a telephone interview.

He said he had spoken with about 30 people from a number of interest groups all along the basin in the preliminary work.

The institute was established by Congress in 1998. Manwaring, who works on wetlands, rivers, coastal and marine issues, said he is working on a project on the Missouri River involving eight states, 28 American Indian tribes, federal agencies and 15 other interest groups.

"What we bring to the table is impartiality," Manwaring said. "We don’t represent the interest of any of the agencies involved in the dispute. This is going to be a stakeholder-led process. And they’re going to have to do the tough work, and all we can do is provide guidance and our assessment of the situation."

The meetings are scheduled in Buford; Albany; Eufaula, Ala.; and Blountstown, Fla.

The Buford meeting is set for 2 to 3:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Gwinnett Environmental and Heritage Center at 2020 Clean Water Drive.

The water feud between Georgia,
Florida and Alabama began in 1990 and has been through various forms of
mediation, primarily between representatives of the governors of the three states.

One year ago, the governors were called to Washington for a meeting with Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, who had negotiated a major water settlement between seven Western states on the Colorado River, had hopes of bringing the dispute between Georgia, Florida and Alabama to a resolution. After months of meetings, the talks broke down in March.

The institute seeks involvement of stakeholders along the river, including municipal water users, electric utilities, and those who are dependent on the water, such as Lake Lanier Islands resort. Further downstream, the interested parties include the seafood industry based in Apalachicola Bay.

The discussion next week only involves the ACF river system. Georgia and Alabama are at odds over the Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa river basin that bisects the two states.



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