A new front is opening in the ongoing dispute over the use of Georgia’s water in Lake Lanier and the Chattahoochee River basin. Senator Richard Shelby has inserted the following language in the omnibus spending bill that is working it’s way through Congress and is expected to pass before Christmas:
“Federal water usage violations.-DOJ is directed to report to the Committees on Appropriations, not later than 60 days after enactment, on notifications of violations of Federal water contracts involving multi-State river basins it has received since 2005. The report should explain how DOJ processed such notifications, provide details on any planned enforcement response, and describe plans to handle future notifications of violations.”
The Georgia delegation sees this language as an attempt by Alabama and Florida to escalate the issue via litigation at the federal level rather than to have the issue solved via interstate compact. A solution that is strongly suggested by the Southern Legislative Conference, which includes the legislators/legislatures of all affected states as members.
Congressman Doug Collins highlights the problems during questioning in the following YouTube video:
Collins notes that all 16 members of the Georgia Delegation (both parties, both chambers) are opposed to this language being included. It’s possible that if the language is not removed, the Georgia delegation could block vote against the omnibus spending bill.
Updated: Governor Deal has issued the following statement:
“The omnibus spending bill currently being considered by Congress includes a multi-state basin provision that would be devastating to Georgia businesses and families. Gov. Deal asked for, and received, the strong support of our congressional delegation to blunt this harmful component of the legislation.
“Having served in congress, I know how difficult my request was and I am so proud of how tirelessly our delegation has worked to advance and protect the interests of Georgians,” Deal said.”
Meanwhile, Daniel Newhauser of National Journal says the show of Georgia’s solidarity appears to be working:
Georgia on my mind: GOP aides say they’re making late tweak to omnibus, removing Sen Shelby’s water provision that angered the Ga delegation
— Daniel Newhauser (@dnewhauser) December 17, 2015