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Florida lawmakers want study of ACF river system
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U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal reacts to a bill calling for a study of the ACF river system.

A U.S. senator and a U.S. representative from Florida have introduced legislation calling for a comprehensive study of the water management, needs and conservation along the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river system.

The legislation, introduced by Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., and Rep. Allen Boyd, D-Fla., would require the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to enter into an agreement with the National Research Council of the National Academies to conduct a basin-wide assessment of the ACF system.

"We cannot sit back and watch as the river and bay decline," Nelson said. "The Apalachicola River is suffering under the current way of doing business. We need a solution that takes into account the environmental sensitivities and real water needs of the citizens of the three surrounding states."

But Georgia lawmakers, including U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal, R-Gainesville, who represents the largest reservoir on the ACF, Lake Lanier, were not consulted on the bill.

"We know little about this bill, except that it asks for a study," Deal said. "That’s what the updating of the manuals does, because they have to take a lot of these factors into consideration."

Deal was referring to the operation manuals for the ACF system, which are in the early stages of a three-year update.

"If I had any reservations about this bill, it might be that they might make the argument that they can’t update the water manuals until this study is complete."

A wait-and-see attitude was also taken by the head of the Atlanta Regional Commission, Chick Krautler.

"We have always asserted that there is ample water available to meet the needs of all of the basin users if we base decisions on facts rather that political posturing," Krautler said. "For far too long, politics have stymied the Army Corps of Engineers’ efforts to resolve the long-standing conflict between Georgia, Florida and Alabama. Political grandstanding has only inflamed emotions, making the potential of an amicable resolution between parties an increasingly unlikely outcome."

Boyd, who represents Apalachicola Bay in Washington, thinks the study will present a different perspective.

"This study will show the real impact that low water flows have had on our river and bay," Boyd said. "The National Research Council has a long history of providing policymakers and the public with expert advice based on sound scientific evidence and research."

Nelson and Boyd also are circulating a letter among the members of the Florida congressional delegation that asks the corps to enter into a contract with the research council to complete the comprehensive study of water management in the ACF river basin.