By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Obama says he'll protect Florida's water resources
Calls for National Research Council assessment
Placeholder Image

1018ObamaChamblissmp3

Chambliss: "Can you believe this guy (Obama)?" Chambliss talks with The Times about Barack Obama's announcement favoring Florida over Georgia and Alabama in tri-state water wars.

1018ObamaDealmp3

U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal, R-Gainesville, in an interview with The Times, calls Obama's action politically incorrect.

General Election Voters Guide 

Coming Sunday

A look at how the candidates differ on their energy policies. IN VIEWPOINT

PLUS: A roundup of the ballot questions in area counties, and local Libertarians talk about the presidential race.

Officials with Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama’s campaign in Florida on Thursday announced the Illinois senator’s support of a plan to protect the Apalachicola Bay in the Florida panhandle. The bay is fed by water from the Flint and Chattahoochee rivers in Georgia.

"As president, I will make protecting Florida’s water resources a priority," Obama said in a statement. "Instead of endless lawyering and litigation over the Apalachicola, the Panhandle region needs new national leadership — that’s why I’ll ask the National Research Council to assess the water supply and recommend the best way to fairly allocate those scarce resources."

Georgia’s two U.S. senators reacted Friday, saying Obama was attempting to "undo the good work we have done to find a solution for all the people in the river basin and instead prioritize the needs of only the people of Florida."

Republicans Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss wrote a letter to Obama calling the announcement "cavalier disregard for the needs of the residents of Georgia."

Chambliss, who is in a tight re-election battle, said he hopes his Democratic opponent, former state Rep. Jim Martin, will repudiate Obama’s announcement.

"We’re having a little debate tomorrow (Saturday), and I plan to ask him about it," Chambliss said Friday. The first-term senator also faces a Libertarian challenger, Allen Buckley.

Chambliss said Obama clearly has no understanding of the policies of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which operates the river system.

"Can you believe this guy (Obama) has gotten to the point where he is wanting to win Florida so bad that he is telling Georgia and Alabama that he’s putting the needs of Florida ahead of you," Chambliss said in an interview with The Times. "It’s a pretty irresponsible statement on his part."

Florida, regarded as a swing state in this year’s presidential election, has 27 electoral votes compared to Georgia’s 15. Recent polls have shown Florida leaning for Obama. Though recent polls also have shown that Obama has gained on Republican challenger Sen. John McCain in Georgia, most show McCain still holding a solid lead in the state.

U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal, R-Gainesville, said he was not surprised by Friday’s announcement from Obama.

"It is the height of political incorrectness, simply in the name of politics to make these kind of statements," Deal said. "It ignores the fact that the panhandle is not the only part of the river system that is suffering from low water flows. It appears that he (Obama) has never seen Lake Lanier."

Deal said he plans to write a letter to Obama.

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, R-Chestnut Mountain, said Obama’s statement was an example of politics trumping real needs.

"It is disconcerting, to say the least, that mussels in the Apalachicola River and Bay are a greater priority to Sen. Obama than the water needs of over 9 million Georgians," Cagle said Friday.

Obama’s statement focused on Florida’s needs, but his campaign has since said he did not intend to suggest that he would put one state’s interests over another.

A call for the National Research Council study had been announced earlier this year by U.S. Rep. Allen Boyd, D-Fla., and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla.

Obama also called for the governors of Florida, Georgia and Alabama to once again convene a process to reach equitable water-sharing solutions.

One year ago, Gov. Sonny Perdue requested that President Bush declare the drought-stricken Chattahoochee basin a federal disaster area, igniting a war of words involving the governors of Alabama and Florida.

Bush intervened through Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, who convened a meeting of the three executives in Washington to begin resolving the 18-year dispute over the rivers that bisect the states.

The governors met again privately in Florida, and their representatives held closed-door sessions before reaching a stalemate in March, when Kempthorne declared an end to the effort to reach a an out-of-court settlement.

A senior federal judge from Minnesota has been named to hear the multitude of lawsuits involving the states and other parties.

Regional events