From the early 1990s, Georgia, Florida and Alabama have gone nose to nose over water and who has rights to it. “It” starts in the headwaters of Lake Lanier, from the Chestatee and Chattahoochee rivers, dammed in the late 1940s and to provide hydroelectricity, navigation and flood control downstream. Several years later, two other purposes were added – to supply drinking water to Atlanta and to provide recreation.

It took a decision by the US Supreme Court to settle a lawsuit brought by Florida against Georgia in 2013, finding in Georgia’s favor. However, the controversy between Georgia and Alabama over the water from the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin continued until mid-December. Alabama had filed a separate lawsuit against the US Army Corps of Engineers in 2017.

In a news release from Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s office on December 12, he announced that he and Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey had reached an agreement to present a plan to the Corps of Engineers for management of the ACF. The proposal includes asking the Corps to set minimal flow levels in the mid- and lower Chattahoochee River Basin during droughts.

The proposal asks the Corps to consider operating dams and reservoirs in this area of the basin.

“Under the agreement, the Corps of Engineers will begin formally considering a first-of-its-kind proposal to operate its dams and reservoirs to achieve minimum water-flow objectives at Columbus, Georgia, and Columbia, Alabama, on the Chattahoochee River along the states’ border,” the news release stated. “The proposal also provides that the Corps would continue to maintain the necessary minimum elevation at Lake Seminole, located in southwest Georgia, approximately twenty miles southwest of Bainbridge.”

The news release further reports that the Corps’ process of acceptance of the proposal will be subject to several other steps before it goes into effect.

“The Corps’ consideration of the proposal will be subject to a public-comment period and environmental review that could last several months,” the news release read. “If the Corps adopts the proposal, Alabama will dismiss its appeal in this matter following a one-year review period, and the litigation will end. If the Corps does not adopt the proposal, Alabama’s lawsuit will resume.”

An email to constituents of the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper included a statement. Here are excerpts:

“Chattahoochee Riverkeeper is cautiously optimistic about the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint Agreement recently announced by the Governors of Alabama and Georgia and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“Chattahoochee Riverkeeper is optimistic because the proposal establishes clear expectations the two states have agreed upon after decades of conflict over how to share water. Since the 1990s, one of the initial strategies to resolve the “water wars” was an agreement on how much water was enough to sustain the states’ and Chattahoochee River’s future. This agreement does just that.

“Chattahoochee Riverkeeper is cautious because we are still learning about the details of the agreement. We have not evaluated the full implications or possible impacts of the proposed “flow objectives” on Columbus (GA), Columbia (AL), and other parts of the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin.

“Additionally, we want to ensure any changes to the Corps’ Water Control Manual do not result in changes to existing flow requirements, including a minimum flow requirement of 750 cubic feet per second (cfs) at Peachtree Creek. Chattahoochee Riverkeeper has historically advocated for a more protective minimum flow requirement at this location to ensure water quality standards are met downstream.”