The federal appeals court in Atlanta handed Georgia an enormous victory in the tri-state water litigation Tuesday, overturning decisions by a federal judge that could have had catastrophic consequences for the metro area.
The court threw out a 2009 ruling by Senior U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson, who had found it was illegal for the Corps of Engineers to draw water from Lake Lanier to meet the needs of 3 million metro residents. In its decision Tuesday, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that one of the purposes of the man-made reservoir about 45 miles upstream of Atlanta was to supply water to the metro region.
Credit rating agency Fitch Ratings issued a report this week warning that it may downgrade the credit scores of metro Atlanta governments if a federal court does not side with Georgia on access to drinking water from Lake Lanier.
Christopher Hessenthaler, a Fitch analyst, said the report is an update to investors in government bonds that the agency is monitoring the situation as a 2012 court-imposed deadline on water use from Lanier approaches.
A new report scheduled for release Aug. 1 says Florida may need more water than first thought to prevent deaths of an endangered mussel in Florida’s Apalachicola River, the Miami Herald is reporting. The revision could give Florida a win in the long-running water dispute between Georgia, Florida and Alabama. The three states have fought for years over water, with both Florida and Alabama calling Georgia a water hog that uses so much of the natural resource too little is left for people and wildlife in the neighboring states.