Tri-State Water Wars (AL, GA, FL)
Advocating for the Long-Term Health of Two Major River Basins
Dams affect Coosa River flow
SELC is seizing an opportunity to address decades of low water flow on the Coosa River. The Alabama Power Company is attempting to acquire a 30- to 50-year license for its seven hydroelectric dams on the river without a proper environmental review. We are requesting a more rigorous analysis based on current studies, as opposed to the old data used by the utility, as well as establishment of minimum flow requirements for all of the dams. Since Alabama Power’s hydroelectric facilities were first licensed in 1957, the gorgeous, 275-mile Coosa has suffered significant ecological degradation—primarily due to poor regulation of the dams, which control the water levels of 225 miles of the river.
For almost two decades, Georgia, Alabama, and Florida have been battling over the future allocation of water in two major river basins that cross their borders. Georgia wants to have enough water to allow metro Atlanta to continue growing, while Alabama and Florida—the downstream users—want enough water flowing for their own economic well-being. The dispute involves several federal agencies, courts and mediators, and its outcome is one of the most important environmental issues in the region today.
Each state has its own concerns about the proper allocation of water:
- Georgia As the upstream user, Georgia wants to have enough water to continue growing, particularly in booming metro Atlanta.
- Alabama A downstream user, Alabama is concerned that Atlanta’s ever-increasing thirst for water will severely limit its own use of water for power generation, fisheries and other uses.
- Florida Another downstream user, Florida wants enough freshwater to reach the Apalachicola Bay to sustain its multi-million dollar shellfish industry.
What’s Being Done
SELC serves on the steering committee of the Tri-State Conservation Coalition, which is keeping close tabs on this issue. We want to ensure that the final outcome protects water quality and quantity in the two basins, which provide habitat for countless species of fish and wildlife, as well as recreation, drinking water and irrigation for millions of Southerners. We submitted a “friend of the court” brief in a federal court proceeding in support of the call from Alabama and Florida for more water flow in the Chattahoochee; the court ruled for the states in early 2008.
The Army Corps of Engineers is now revising its drought contingency plan and water control manuals for both river basins. SELC is thoroughly analyzing and critiquing these revisions as part of the ongoing federal environmental review process.
More background on this case:
Tri-State Water Wars (AL, GA, FL): Background >>