A battle over Georgia’s water rights that became an issue before the vote in last yea’s Omnibus funding bill has resumed, due to similar legislative language being inserted by an Alabama senator into the Commerce-Justice-Science appropriations legislation now under consideration in the Senate. The offending language requires the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to produce a study on water contracts that Georgia fears could be used as damaging evidence in ongoing water litigation between the Peach State, Alabama and Florida.
The issue is such a major concern that both Senator Isakson and Senator Perdue to take to the Senate floor on Tuesday to oppose a cloture motion on the underlying bill. Senator Perdue also canceled an appearance with presumptive GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump in Atlanta due to the bill, which he called “critical legislation … that could negatively impact Georgia’s water supply.”
The senators introduced two amendments to the bill today in an effort to stop the damaging language from taking effect. One amendment would strip the offending language from the bill completely. The other amendment would prevent funding from being used by the Corps to prepare the water contracts study.
Senator Isakson expressed his opposition to the bill:
We are strongly opposed to the language included in the underlying bill that politicizes an issue that should be resolved between Georgia, Florida and Alabama, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the courtsn. This is absolutely the wrong way to resolve disputes among our states, and Georgia has been working in good faith for years to resolve these disputes. Our state remains focused on continued conservation efforts so that we are good stewards of the water resources in these river basins. I am prepared to use every tool at my disposal to ensure Georgia is not unfairly disadvantaged in a decades-long tristate water dispute.
In a Senate floor speech earlier today, Senator Perdue expressed his displeasure with the measure:
Both Alabama and Florida have consistently lost in court because their claims have been found to be baseless. Now, because of unfavorable court rulings, we are seeing a senator attempt to tip the scales in this water dispute by short-circuiting that litigation through the appropriations process. That’s just not appropriate. These amendments will remove this harmful language from this appropriations bill and preserve the progress the three states have made in these ongoing water negotiations.
Last December, the Georgia delegation went to the mat in an effort to get similar language removed from the omnibus spending bill for fiscal 2016. Ultimately they were successful, and every member of the delegation with the exception of Jody Hice and Hank Johnson voted for the measure, despite the opposition to the spending bill from many of their consituents.