BRADENTON, Fla. - An attorney from Maine will manage the U.S. Supreme Court case that Florida filed against Georgia in a dispute over water rights.
Ralph Lancaster, a civil and criminal lawyer who is of counsel at Pierce Atwood LLP, began setting deadlines for activities and filings Dec. 3. Discovery will take place between Feb. 9 and April 13.
Starting March 6, both states must file monthly progress reports with the special master. Depositions will be taken between April 20 and Sept. 18.
Court filings can be obtained at a special website at www.pierceatwood.com/floridavgeorgia142original.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott filed a lawsuit in late 2013 seeking an injunction from the Supreme Court to stop what Florida officials called Georgia's "unchecked and growing consumption of water that continues to harm the families of Northwest Florida." The court formally agreed to hear the suit on Nov. 3.
Two outside firms have been hired by Florida to represent it before the Supreme Court. They are Foley & Lardner LLP of Tallahassee, Fla., and Blankenau Wilmoth Jarecke LLP of Lincoln, Neb.
The suit asks the high court to equitably apportion the interstate waters of the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin, or ACF Basin, which provides fresh water for drinking and marine resources to Georgia, Florida, and Alabama, which is not a party to the case but has been involved in previous challenges.
Florida's suit also asks the court to cap Georgia's withdrawals at levels that existed on Jan. 3, 1992, a standard that might be difficult given the growth of Atlanta and other communities in the metro area.
Such a drastic rollback was considered in a previous legal action, and led to rating agencies warning about the potential for high costs and deteriorating credit quality if implemented.
The earlier action ultimately led the court to require that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers develop manuals for water withdrawals from tributaries it manages within the ACF, and from which Georgia has constructed numerous reservoirs to store water.
In early November, the state of Georgia and two of its agencies filed lawsuits against the Corps for failing to develop the manuals that the water supply policy issues.