Proposed flow objectives in Georgia/Alabama water dispute may impact Valley area

Published 9:00 am Tuesday, December 26, 2023

The proposed settlement between Alabama and Georgia over the Chattahoochee River water flows may have an impact on the Greater Valley area, which also borders the two states. 

Representative Debbie Wood said the agreement was a positive example of governors of contiguous states working together.

“When we’re joined together at the hip, then we need each other,” Wood said. 

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The proposed settlement, announced by both Alabama Governor Kay Ivey and Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, would ensure that citizens in the mid and lower Chattahoochee River Basin would have “sufficient minimum water flows during times of drought.” 

“Riverkeeper is cautiously optimistic, and we’re pleased to see that the states are able to negotiate in good faith and come up with an agreement that they can both live with,” said Chris Manganiello, water policy director of Chattahoochee Riverkeeper. 

Wood said the minimum flow will only be necessary during drought conditions. The proposal would require the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to maintain a minimum flow of water using its dams and reservoirs in Columbus, Georgia — southeast of West Point — and Columbia, Alabama. 

However, Manganiello said the proposal will also mean that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at West Point Lake will play a part in ensuring the water flow objectives for the Valley and mid-Chattahoochee River area. That may impact the lake’s water supply.

The proposal will resolve litigation that Alabama brought against the Corps of Engineers challenging operations such as allowing Georgia to make water withdrawals from the river near Atlanta, according to a press release from the Alabama Governor’s Office. 

The proposal to the Corps of Engineers will be subject to public comment and an environmental review. Manganiello said the Riverkeeper is looking forward to learning more about the possible environmental impacts that the flow objectives may have for the upper and lower Chattahoochee River basin area. 

Manganiello said he is glad the proposed settlement refers to minimum flow numbers that have been in discussion with stakeholders for years, such as the Columbus Water Works.

Wood said the settlement will likely allow Alabama to introduce more recreational activities, like Columbus White Water Rapids. She said having a reliable water source in order to bring industries into the state like food production plants can stimulate job opportunities.

“I think that sometimes we only think about water for our usage in a residential environment but water’s extremely important for tourism and is extremely important for industrial recruitment,” Wood said. 

“I think that it’s important to see that our governors are willing to work together and work out an agreement and not wait on sometimes a federal lawsuit to do that for us,” Wood said.