A comment by U.S. Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan about Georgia’s water dispute with Florida and Alabama has left two Lake Lanier advocates encouraged somewhat but still scratching their heads.
Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Georgia, met with her Tuesday and said he was pleased with her answers to questions about the water dispute, noting she told him that human uses of the water in the states must be considered.
“I applaud her for thinking about humans’ right to water,” said Jackie Joseph, Lake Lanier Association president.
“Water supply for drinking and human consumption is definitely an issue that seems to have been overlooked or not really addressed specifically,” she added. “Maybe she has a good understanding. Maybe she has researched and looked at (the issue).”
And if the issue reaches the U.S. Supreme Court, “with her stated position on this, I would imagine she would have some form of influence,” Joseph said.
The concern is Kagan might have casually answered Isakson’s question.
“I would have thought she would have said ‘I would really like to study the issue’ and ‘I don’t know the background of it, but I’ll review it and get back to you’” if she didn’t fully grasp the complicated and long-standing issue, Joseph said.
The three states have battled for some 20 years over water use in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River basin, which includes Lake Lanier at the northern end.
In July 2009, U.S. District Court Judge Paul Magnuson ruled that metro Atlanta’s water withdrawal was not an approved use for Lake Lanier, scaling Gainesville’s usage back to 1970s levels.
Georgia since has filed a federal appeal.
Kit Dunlap, who is chairwoman of the Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District, said she agrees with Kagan’s remark.
“But what does it mean? Is she saying human consumption should be considered over fish? I don’t know,” said Dunlap, also president of the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce.
She added, “I hope this never gets to the Supreme Court, but if it (does), it won’t be settled in my lifetime.”
A call Wednesday to Isakson’s office in Washington was referred to his spokeswoman, Sheridan Watson, who couldn’t be reached for comment.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.