A court ruling that gives Georgia renewed access to drinking water from Lake Lanier is a decision Gov. Nathan Deal said Monday could lead to favorable consequences for the state.
"The appeal of Judge Magnuson's ruling and the directions of the three-judge federal panel puts some clarity into where the negotiations have to go," Deal told The Times during an appearance at a Fourth of July barbecue in Gainesville.
The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals last month overturned a 2009 decision limiting the amount of water that could be withdrawn from Lake Lanier. The three-judge panel from court instructed the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to reconsider giving Georgia permanent access to the water.
The corps had a year to implement the judges' directions.
"The court ruling is very favorable for us," Georgia Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle said Monday. "It puts pressure back on the Corps of Engineers to put forth a meaningful plan that includes drinking water."
Deal met with Alabama Gov. Robert Bailey earlier in June to discuss the water issue.
"I think it went well. I'm not allowed to discuss the details of anything," Deal said. "To have the chance to know each other on a personal basis is good because we have to have confidence in each other as we try to negotiate a settlement. I am encouraged by that and we're going to continue to be cooperative as we move forward."
Deal said he plans to continue negotiations with both Alabama and Florida.
"Ultimately it does require the three governors to reach some agreement and present them in the form of either a compact or legislation that Congress would ratify and set things in motion," he said.
Georgia Rep. Carl Rogers, R-Gainesville, said Florida might be a tough egg to crack with negotiations.
"Florida is going to be very hard to deal with anyway because of Apalachicola Bay," he said. "If anyone can do it, Gov. Nathan Deal can do it."
Deal was optimistic about having a similar meeting with Florida's governor, but said nothing has been scheduled at this point.
"In a way, we really needed to wait until (the June 28) ruling came out before we had any general guidance as to where we needed to go," he said.
Deal, Cagle and Rogers all said Hall County should continue to fund the Glades Reservoir, for future generations' use if nothing else.
"I don't think that the state of Georgia can continue to depend almost exclusively on federally controlled reservoirs even though we may get a more favorable allocation under these new rulings," Deal said. "We're still going to need supplemental supply under the jurisdiction of local communities."
Deal said it was difficult to determine a time frame for reaching a resolution with either state.
"Everything is still moving forward and hopefully we'll see some good results in the not too distant future," he said.
Deal was a guest of honor at Memorial Park Funeral Homes and Cemeteries' 18th annual barbecue honoring public servants.