On January 8, the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the on-going water dispute between Florida and Georgia related to the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river system. Riverkeeper Dan Tonsmeire and board member Joyce Estes attended the hearing, waiting outside in line well before sunrise. Both were encouraged by the justices line of questioning and the Florida legal team’s presentation and responses. They also met with Congressman Dunn and key staff of Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson.
Dan, who was deposed as part of the FL vs GA case, attended the 2016 trial proceedings in Maine overseen by a special master, Ralph Lancaster who was appointed by the Supreme Court. In his February 2017 legal summary, Lancaster included the following: “The facts presented at trial demonstrate the gravity of the dispute between Florida and Georgia. As the evidentiary hearing made clear, Florida points to real harm and, at the very least, likely misuse of resources by Georgia. There is little question that Florida has suffered harm from decreased flows in the River.” Florida was not granted the water relief that was sought after the over month-long trial and the full Supreme Court will took up the case on January 8.
Dan has spent over 3 decades working in the Apalachicola River basin, including 14 years as the Apalachicola Riverkeeper. He said “We know that the misuse of water by Georgia has caused the Apalachicola River, bay and basin real ecological and economic damage. This misuse of water in the Chattahoochee and Flint Rivers must be addressed, so the ecosystem and economy can recover. Equitable sharing of the water is possible and we hope that the justices’ decision will set us on that path.”
The full SCOTUS transcript can be read here.