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Circuit Won't Re-Hear Lake Lanier Water Withdrawal Dispute

By Robyn Hagan Cain on September 19, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals will not issue further opinions in a decades-long water dispute between Florida, Alabama, and Georgia unless the Supreme Court intervenes. On Monday, the court rejected a request from Florida and Alabama to vacate a unanimous water rights decision from a three-judge panel.

The source of the controversy? Atlanta-area death trap Lake Lanier, better known for summer drowning accidents than for its water supply.

Following a court battle between Florida, Alabama, and Georgia over Lake Lanier water withdrawal rights, District Judge Paul Magnuson ruled in 2009 that Georgia either had to reach an agreement with her neighbors by July 2012, or return to 1970s water withdrawal levels.

In June, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals found that the 1950s legislation approving the construction of the Buford Dam, which, in turn, created Lake Lanier, anticipated that the metro-Atlanta area would need greater water withdrawal from the lake over time. The court overruled Magnuson's 2012 water-sharing deadline.

The Eleventh Circuit sent the case to the Army Corps of Engineers, which controls Buford Dam, directing the group to weigh Georgia's water needs against the environmental impact and water demands of Georgia's downstream neighbors.

The Army Corps of Engineers has one year to evaluate Georgia's request for more water from Lake Lanier, reports The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Under the court's June ruling, the Corps must recognize water supply as a permissible use of the Buford Dam.

Alabama and Florida have not indicated if they will appeal the case to the Supreme Court.

For more Eleventh Circuit news, check out FindLaw's Eleventh Circuit blog.

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