ALBANY, GA (WALB) - Fifty-six people from Georgia, Alabama, and Florida, representing water user organizations, have unanimously agreed on a management plan for the Apalachicola, Chattahoochee, and Flint River Basin.
The stakeholders hope their plan will let the three states manage their water resources through cooperation, instead of arguing in court.
This stakeholders group has been negotiating over five years, so they say coming up with unanimous support for one plan is a great achievement. Now they hope the three states will put it into action.
The Flint River is one of the great natural resources of South Georgia. Since 2009 the Apalachicola, Chattahoochee, and Flint River Basin stakeholders have been working to find common ground to end the 'Water Wars' - legal battles between Alabama, Florida, and Georgia that have gone all the way to the Supreme Court.
"We don't use that term. We'd rather not be at war. We'd rather be a cooperation between the three states, managed best for the users of the basin," said Flint River Caucus Member Bobby McKinney.
The main agreement of the plan is to establish a trans-boundary water management institution; in other words, it's one with the authority to manage the basin efficiently.
"When we do things that are good, we repeat them," said Flint RiverKeeper Gordon Rogers. When we do things that are not so hot.. we tweak them, and move forward."
The plan is to not get bogged down in laws or drawn out court cases, but rather to let the managers try to solve issues before they become a drought crisis, like California is experiencing.
"There is enough water in the Apalachicola, Chattahoochee, and Flint System to where if we manage it correctly, we can do a good job for everybody, upstream and down," Rogers said.
Now the plan goes to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the three state Governors, and the special master appointed by the Supreme Court for their decision. And the stakeholders believe it will be adopted.
"Yes, I do [believe it will be adopted]. It's been too much time, and money, and energy put into for it to be ignored by the users," McKinney said.
"We think there are elements in this plan that can quickly move this argument out of court, and being to manage this system a whole lot better," said Rogers.
It's ultimately a plan to manage the water resources, to provide water and power for fast growing Atlanta, keep farms irrigated in South Georgia, and still grow oysters in Apalachicola Bay, even in a drought.