As described previously:
Florida has been locked in a long-standing legal battle with Georgia regarding the ability to use freshwater running from the “ACF river basin” (that is, the Apalachicola River, Chattahoochee River, Flint River) south through North Florida and into the Gulf of Mexico. Why? Because both states have growing populations and economies which need access to that water to address that ‘thirst’. If Georgia drains off too much of the water from the source, there may not be a sufficient amount to handle Florida’s human, agricultural, and business needs.
Following a November 7, 2019 evidentiary hearing in New Mexico, Judge Kelly took the matter under advisement, and on December 11, 2019 issued a 96-page report of his findings and recommendations to the Supreme Court. 4 His summary conclusion follows:
I do not recommend that the Supreme Court grant Florida’s request for a decree equitably apportioning the waters of the ACF Basin because the evidence has not shown harm to Florida caused by Georgia; the evidence has shown that Georgia’s water use is reasonable; and the evidence has not shown that the benefits of apportionment would substantially outweigh the potential harms. 5
So what happens next? Part of that decision is up to Governor DeSantis. 6 And part is up to the Supreme Court itself.
Kelly’s recommendation is not an end to the case. Supreme Court justices must now decide whether to accept or reject his report, convene oral arguments in Washington or call for Kelly to revisit the case. If the justices want to hear from Florida and Georgia in person – like they did in January 2018 – it’s not clear whether they would have time to do so before the end of their current term in June. 7
Time will tell what ‘the powers that be’ (in Florida, Georgia, and the Supreme Court) decide to do, and the final (will it be?) outcome.
1 See https://www.supremecourt.gov/search.aspx?filename=/docket/docketfiles/html/public/22o142.html and https://www.ca10.uscourts.gov/special-master-142.
2 See /florida-georgia-water-case-remains-before-supreme-court/ and /florida-georgia-water-case-keeps-going/.
3 Ibid. at /florida-georgia-water-case-remains-before-supreme-court/ (footnote omitted).
4 See https://www.ca10.uscourts.gov/sites/default/files/SM142/670.pdf.
5 Ibid. at p. 81.
6 See https://www.wctv.tv/content/news/Judge-recommends-Georgia-prevail-in-water-war-with-Florida-566166011.html.
7 Ibid. at https://www.ajc.com/news/breaking-news/georgia-wins-major-victory-legal-fight-with-florida-over-water-use/4mZIIY45N0Uli2gHzZlaLL/.
– For more information, call Philip N. Kabler of the Gainesville, FL office of Bogin, Munns & Munns at 352.332.7688, where he practices in the areas of business, banking, real estate, and equine law. He has taught business and real estate law courses at the University of Florida Warrington College of Business Administration and Levin College of Law and is the President-Elect of the Eighth Judicial Circuit Bar Association.
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