Supreme Court move in water wars good for Gwinnett

LAWRENCEVILLE -- A U.S. Supreme Court decision against hearing arguments in the water war dispute between Georgia, Alabama and Florida is good news for Gwinnett, officials said.

The move means an appeals court ruling allowing drinking water as a legal use of Lake Lanier means the county's main drinking water source will be protected in a decades long battle over the flows of the Apalachicola, Chattahoochee and Flint rivers.

"This is great news for Gwinnett and the state of Georgia," local Commission Chairwoman Charlotte Nash said. "We are very pleased that the arguments for the authorization of water supply are now over, and we're grateful for the state's efforts and leadership during this litigation. We understand the Corps of Engineers is working to determine how much of the storage in Lake Lanier can be used for water supply, and we eagerly await their results."

For a time, a judge's ruling endangered the drawing of drinking water out of the lake, as it was not originally stated as a purpose when the lake was constructed more than 50 years ago. Officials in Alabama and Florida argue that the flows should be protected for agricultural and environmental purposes. But last year, the ruling was overturned on appeal.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, who wanted the current ruling to stand, said the Supreme Court's decision affirms the last ruling that drinking water was a Congressionally authorized use of Lake Lanier, a point that the other states had strongly disputed.

"We can now move forward with this issue behind us, have the governors work together and come to a long-term agreement that will provide for the water needs of all three states," Deal said in a written statement.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.