Firs things first, this looks like the title of a college football game. But it’s not. Instead, this is about good ole water.
The Chattahoochee river flows from Georgia, and eventually merges with the Flint River to form the Apalachicola river which meanders its way to Florida.
The Army Corps of Engineers manages some dams that control these waters, based on direction from a master manual which was drafted in 1958. Yeah, you read that right, that shit’s been in force and largely unchanged for over 60 years.
So Florida is like, “Hey, those assholes in Georgia are taking way too much of that water. Shit’s changed in 60 years, and we need more of it.”
So that’s really all that’s being argued here. Florida wants more fresh water, and Georgia wants them to go pound sand up their ass. Both states have increased water demands, but the rivers aren’t flowing any more water. So SCOTUS is basically being asked to decide on whether this manual should change, or they should just keep dividing it up based on guidance from about the same time Leave it to Beaver hit the airwaves.
Florida tried to argue that Georgia’s substantial consumption caused severe harm to their downstream mates in Florida, and that if they let more water flow, it wouldn’t harm Georgia in any way.
Justice Breyer pushed back on some of the harm claims, specifically about oyster bed collapse. He asked about overharvesting of oysters in Florida, which has nothing to do with water shortages.
But Florida’s counsel argued that the science doesn’t support that the harm to Florida’s oyster bed is from overharvesting, but instead, because of water shortages.
Florida wrapped by arguing that they’re not asking for a greater percentage from Georgia, but instead, they’re asking Georgia to just stop being such wasteful twatwaffles. His closing arguments were:
Gregory G. Garre
Thank you, Your Honor. I guess I would say in closing it’s hard to imagine New England without lobsters or, say, the Chesapeake without crabs, but, in effect, that’s a future that Apalachicola now faces when it comes to its oysters and other species.
And yet, just to be clear, no one is asking or saying to Georgia farmers, sorry, you can’t grow your crops anymore because there’s no water left for you.
Under the decree Florida is requesting, all farmers could continue to grow their crops.
A decree would simply require them to prevent outright waste and adopt more efficient measures to save water while still irrigating.
That’s hardly asking too much. As this Court stressed in its prior decision, Florida has an equal right to the reasonable use of the waters at issue.
Georgia has never disputed that Florida’s use of the water to replenish an irreplaceable ecological treasure is reasonable.
And yet, if the Court accepts the Special Master’s recommendation, that right will be extinguished, and the Apalachicola, not to mention the communities that have fished and depended on it for centuries, will be lost. Thank you.
Clarence Thomas hit right between the eyes with his opening question for Georgia, though. He asked:
Mr. Primis, do you agree that there has been a reduction in the flow of water into the Apalachicola over the years?
Craig S. Primis
Comparing the pre-reservoir, pre-Army Corps operations, and post-Army Corps operations, the answer to that question is yes, Justice Thomas.
Clearly trying to ascertain if Georgia is just taking more for itself, and leaving less for Florida. Or if there’s another reason why Florida is having water issues that have nothing to do with Georgia activities.
Georgia argued back:
Craig S. Primis
The water is not disappearing.
The first point I would make is that Florida is making a completely inapt comparison by comparing the ACF basin prior to the building of the dams and reservoirs and the Army Corps operations post. The Army Corps has the overriding influence in the amount and timing of flow from Georgia into Florida, and the reason that there were more days closer to 5,000 is because the Army Corps is controlling those flows in a way that did not exist previously.
So it’s not disappearing.
The water — it would be in reservoirs. But it’s compounded by the fact that there have been three back-to-back droughts that did not exist in the historic record, and the rain — lack of rainfall accounts for the reduced flows as well as the change in seasonality.
So the water’s not disappearing. There’s just less of it.
And the Army Corps is intervening.
He went on to argue that areas which had been overharvested, were the only ones that were fucked up. The other areas were fine. So Florida’s argument it isn’t from overharvesting was bullshit.
In a unanimous decision for Georgia, they felt Florida had failed to make any demonstrable claim that Georgia was was taking more than their fair share. Florida, needs to figure out how to deal with it’s oyster problem some other way. They don’t get to force Georgia to do shit.
Read about the cases here at Oyez and/or SCOTUSBlog