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Thursday, June 10, 2010 - 5:20am

Judge Hears More "Water War" Testimony

Protection of endangered species downstream from Georgia into Florida was the issue in front of a federal judge this week in Jacksonville. It’s the latest court hearing in the tri-state water wars.

Federal judge Paul Magnuson heard oral arguments over whether endangered mussels and other species would be further damaged by the Army Corps of Engineers’ current operating manual. That manual determines how much water is released from Lake Lanier north of Atlanta. The hearing is part-two of the latest lawsuit, and follows Magnuson’s ruling last summer that Georgia had few legal rights to Lake Lanier.

Andy Smith with the Apalachicola Riverkeeper was at the hearing. He says the judge had particular words for the Corps for not having an updated operating manual.

“ ‘Thousands of people’s livelihood and lives depend on this. And you’ve diddled, diddled, diddled.’ And he was talking about people from every end of the ACF-basin.”

That’s the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin.

Smith says ultimately Georgia, neighbors Alabama and Florida and federal officials all need to fully understand environmental impacts of this legal battle:

“We’ve got family up in Atlanta, we’ve got friends in Columbus and I grew up in a farming family in southwest Georgia. We understand the demands up there. But when it comes down to it, we have to live within our limits.”

Smith believes Judge Magnuson may wait to make his next ruling, sometime after the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals hears Georgia’s appeal of last summer’s decision. That hearing is in late July.

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