Water Wars Latest: Tough Talk from Alabama's Governor

Published: Oct. 19, 2007 at 9:49 PM CDT|Updated: Oct. 20, 2007 at 12:04 AM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

Governor Bob Riley is speaking out, saying he's so frustrated with the Army Corps of Engineers, he may order Alabama waterways to slow down their releases even if it might defy federal regulations.

The latest round in the battle over who gets access to Georgia's federally regulated water is coming down to who's conserved, and who hasn't.

Yesterday, Georgia U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson implied Alabama is in tough straits because it hasn't cut back, and that angered Governor Riley.

"For them to say that we haven't done anything, just look at what Atlanta has not done over the last several months, It's not like this drought just snuck up on anybody," he said.

Alabama's legal position is that the Army Corps of Engineers has allowed several Georgia communities to take more water out of the federally regulated Lake Allatoona than any of them ever signed contracts for all while shorting downstream amounts Alabama is supposed to get.

Riley called that nonsense.

"If you look back over the last few months, it really gets you to the point where you think they're not capable of rational thought," he said.

Now, with some communities starting to talk about extreme contingency plans like trucking in water, Riley says he may order Alabama lakes to lessen their downstream releases - just as he says Georgia has - even if it might conflict with federal law.

"If it means we're going to have to regulate our own reservoirs and our own lakes according to what we feel is correct, then I think it's time for us to do it," said the governor.

The Army Corps of Engineers announced it's planning on rewriting the drought management rules that sparked this controversy between Alabama, Georgia and Florida, but that could take years to finish.

Alabama and Georgia have also launched new federal court cases against the Corps of Engineers in an effort to settle the dispute but that also might take some time.

So with Alabama looking at even more dry weather ahead and poor forecasts, Riley isn't ruling out taking his case again to Washington to twist some higher level arms.

The Attorney General's office filed Alabama's latest court action Wednesday, and Georgia followed Thursday.  There's no word on when either of those cases might go before a federal judge.

Reporter: Chris Holmes