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April 1, 2021

US Supreme Court Dismissed Water Rights Case in Florida v. Georgia

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This morning the Supreme Court ruled unanimously for Georgia in the long-running Florida vs. Georgia water apportionment case. Justice Amy Coney Barrett wrote the opinion to dismiss the case.

Florida claimed that Georgia’s upstream use of water during a drought led to a collapse of their oyster industry in Apalachicola Bay as well as damage to their river ecosystem. Florida’s attorneys changed their argument from overconsumption by metro Atlanta to claiming that the agricultural industry in South Georgia was the cause. Georgia maintained that its water use is reasonable and that Florida’s fisheries management and other factors led to the fishery collapse.

The case, filed in 2013, was argued before the Supreme Court twice in the last four years, following analysis by two different Special Masters, both of whom recommended dismissal.

Justice Barrett writes, “Florida has not shown that it is ‘highly probable’ that Georgia’s alleged overconsumption played more than a trivial role in the collapse of Florida’s oyster fisheries. […] Florida therefore has failed to carry its burden of proving causation by clear and convincing evidence.”

Metro Atlanta Chamber President and CEO Katie Kirkpatrick testified as one of Georgia’s two expert witnesses in the case. Congratulations to Georgia’s government and business leaders for their stewardship of this precious resource and for their active and effective legal defense in this case.

Read the full opinion here. For more background on the case, see our blog post on Special Master Paul Kelly’s opinion.

 

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