Water war could affect Apalachicola, Gulf of Mexico

11/01/07 Robert Lorei
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In northern Georgia a large, manmade lake at the center of a political battle over how to distribute water resources between Florida, Georgia and Alabama.

The area near Atlanta is experiencing the region's worst drought in decades.

Lake Lanier is the beginning of a a hydrologic eco-system that feeds the booming city of Atlanta about an hour's drive to the south. Some enviromentalists and people living downstream from Atlanta criticize the city, alleging that the city is consuming more than its fair share of water.

Also dependent on the lake are other communities, industries and power plants in parts of Georgia, Alabama and Florida before the water drains into the Gulf of Mexico.

According to federal officials a drought has reduced the lake's water level by about 14 feet from its normal level at this time of year and the situation is worse in lakes farther south. Atlanta's rainfall totals are 16 inches below normal so far this year.

There is a debate over whether Lake Lanier could run dry in 90 days or 120 or 180 days. But the situation has inflamed the tri-state water wars.

According to Reuters, Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue declared an emergency in parts of the state, imposed watering restrictions and appealing to the Bush administration for help.

Perdue also filed a lawsuit to force the Corps of Engineers, which manages Lake Lanier, to reduce the flow of water it sends downstream each day. That water eventually enters the Apalachicola River and ulitimately flows into the Gulf of Mexico.

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist strongly opposed the suit, arguing that the Sunshine State's $200 million commercial fishing industry in Florida's northwestern Panhandle region already was threatened by reduced flows from Georgia.

Alabama Gov. Bob Riley said any reduction in flows from Lake Lanier would hinder cooling at a nuclear plant in southeastern Alabama, jeopardizing electricity to 800,000 households across all three states.

On this program we'll discuss the background of the water wars. We'll hear from Florida's environmental troubador Dale Crider and later a portion of an award-winning documentary about the situation called "Apalachicola Doin' Time."

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