Atlanta Utility Claims Army Corps Is Taking Its Water

(CN) – An Atlanta-area utility claims in court the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is depriving it of as much as 40 million gallons of water per day by playing fast and loose with a longstanding water allocation agreement.

The Cobb County-Marietta Water Authority supplies water to Cobb and Paulding counties as well as parts of Fulton and Cherokee counties.

In a lawsuit filed against the Corps in the federal court in Atlanta, the authority says it entered into a contract with the federal government in 1963 granting it the right to store 13,140 acre-feet of water in Allatoona Lake, a reservoir in northwestern metro Atlanta, for its wholesale customers.

It goes on to say that because the contract was for the permanent use of the lake for water storage, it invested hundreds of millions of dollars over the years in improvements to increase the amount of water it could store in the reservoir and improve inflows stormwater runoff and recycled water into the lake.

The authority says at no time did the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers object to the authority’s discharging these inflows into the reservoir, nor did it dispute the authority’s right to withdraw water for its customers.

The problem that’s led to a court fight, the authority says, is that the Corps has unilaterally declared that all inflows into the lake automatically become the property of the federal government and subject to allocation by the Corps “simply because they entered the federal facility.”

Under the federal water allocation rule adopted by the Corps, the complaint says, the agency can “allocate to itself almost 95 percent of the made inflows the State of Georgia has allocated to Cobb-Marietta.”

“This deprives Cobb-Marietta of the right to store more than 40 million gallons of water per day,” the complaint says.

Glenn Page, the authority’s general manager, said the dispute boils down to a state’s right issue versus federalism, and that it “makes absolutely no sense that they continue to use this accounting system.”

“We decided to challenge it because the timing is right,” Page said. “We feel very positive that we have a very strong case.”

Page said it would cost millions of dollars for infrastructure to get the water from another source.

The authority is asking the federal court to set aside the Corps’ water allocation system and order the agency to abide by the longstanding reservoir usage agreement.

It is represented by Lewis Jones, of King & Spalding LLP, of Atlanta, and Douglas Haynie, of Haynie, Litchfield, Crane & White PC, of Marietta, Georgia.

Representatives for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers declined to comment on pending litigation.

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