A Maine lawyer overseeing the latest legal battle in the tri-state water wars has denied Georgia’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit by Florida in the U.S. Supreme Court.
Georgia based its motion on what it deemed as Florida’s failure to include the U.S. as a party.
“Georgia ... has not carried its burden to demonstrate that dismissal is appropriate,” Ralph I. Lancaster said in an order filed Friday.
Brian Robinson, Gov. Nathan Deal’s spokesman, refused to comment. Representatives for Florida couldn’t be reached for comment.
The two states and Alabama have battled over water sharing issues for more than two decades.
The latest tussle, stemming from a Nov. 3 complaint filed by Florida, focuses on the economic impact of Georgia’s water withdrawals from the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river basin, including Lake Lanier, on Florida’s oyster and seafood industry in the Apalachicola Bay.
Florida alleges that “large and ever-increasing amounts of water” have been consumed for government, industrial, recreational and agricultural uses permitted by Georgia.
“These uses are forcing Floridians to shoulder the heavy burden of Georgia’s growth,” Florida has charged.
Georgia, meanwhile, has denied that the Apalachicola region is “suffering serious harm.”
In his order, Lancaster also found that Alabama doesn’t need to be a party in the lawsuit.
“Alabama should not be joined involuntarily unless there is a significant reason to do so,” Lancaster said. “None has been presented to me.”
In an earlier court filing, Alabama sought to dodge being part of the litigation.
“Alabama has substantial interests in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river Basin and ... reserves all rights to protect these interests in the future,” lawyers wrote.
But “Florida repeatedly has stated that it is not seeking any relief against Alabama, and Georgia has made no claim against Alabama.”
Meanwhile, there have been hints the sides are closer to agreement.
Craig Primis, a lawyer for Georgia, told Lancaster in a June 9 phone conference that talks were continuing.
There’s “not a lot I can tell you other than we are certainly aware of the court’s admonition to proceed with settlement,” he said.