The U.S. Supreme Court has appointed a Portland, Maine, lawyer to oversee a Florida lawsuit alleging Georgia’s water consumption has drained flows into the Apalachicola Bay, home of Florida’s oyster industry.
Ralph I. Lancaster will serve as special master with authority to set the time and conditions for the filing of additional pleadings, direct proceedings, summon witnesses and issue subpoenas.
He also can “take such evidence as may be introduced and such as he may deem it necessary to call for,” according to the high court’s website.
Lancaster has been involved in two other Supreme Court cases involving water disputes, one between Virginia and Maryland and another between New Jersey and Delaware.
In November, the Supreme Court agreed to accept the suit, another in a long-standing series of battles in the “water wars” over the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river basin, which also straddles part of Alabama.
Florida has argued that Georgia is guzzling more than its share of water at the expense of the Apalachicola Bay oyster fishery, which relies on fresh river water mixing with the salty sea to thrive.
Georgia had until Wednesday to respond to the Supreme Court’s decision, but the deadline has been extended to Feb. 2.