ATLANTA — Georgia officials have filed a formal notice indicating they will appeal a federal ruling that could restrict Atlanta from its main water supply.
In a July 17 order, U.S. District Court Judge Paul Magnuson of Minnesota
required Georgia to reach an agreement with Florida and Alabama or persuade Congress to authorize Lake Lanier as a water source in three years.
The state filed the notice to appeal this week in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta. The development is no surprise as Gov. Sonny Perdue has repeatedly said the state will appeal the ruling. Perdue has said a formal appeal could come by the end of the year.
Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle said Wednesday state officials feel they have a very strong case.
"Today we enforced the message that Georgia stands firm in our commitment to preserve our water resources for the needs of our state and our citizens," he said. "We will not stand idle while some attempt to belittle the water needs of millions of Georgians. We are confident our position is strong and look forward to moving ahead."
The judge’s July ruling set a three-year deadline for Congress to approve a deal over water rights involving Lake Lanier, the massive federal reservoir that supplies more than 3 million metro Atlanta residents.
If Congress does not give Atlanta and other municipalities permission to use the lake as a water source, only the cities of Gainesville and Buford would be allowed to continue to use Lake Lanier for drinking water, and that would be at mid-1970s levels.
The judge’s ruling was the latest wrinkle in a long-running three-state battle over federal water rights between Georgia, Alabama and Florida.
Georgia Power President Mike Garrett, directing the state’s efforts to settle a water dispute with Alabama and Florida, said earlier this month in a speech in Gainesville that he was "guardingly optimistic that we can do a deal with Alabama." If the three states reach an agreement, as ordered by Magnuson, "we would have to go to Congress and ask for reauthorization," Garrett said. "I think if you get all three states together, Congress would be a lot more receptive (to reauthorization)."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.