McKenna Long & Aldridge Secures Victory for State of Georgia in Historic “Water Wars” Case

After 11-year legal battle, Georgia handed victory by 11th Circuit

ATLANTA (June 29, 2011) — McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP (MLA) attorneys Bruce Brown and Todd Silliman helped secure a major victory for the state of Georgia in its long-running “water wars” litigation.  The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Tuesday in favor of the state of Georgia after an 11-year legal battle in which MLA has represented Georgia.  MLA’s attorneys representing Georgia in the tri-state water disputes since 2000 include Bruce Brown, a partner in MLA’s litigation practice, and Todd Silliman, a partner in MLA’s environmental law practice

“Georgia has persisted that Lake Lanier was always intended for water supply, and unlike other states, we followed the appropriate procedures to raise that issue with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and then with the courts,” said Brown.

The verdict overruled Senior U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson’s 2009 ruling, which found it was illegal for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to draw water from Lake Lanier to meet the needs of Georgia’s growing population. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that one of the purposes of the man-made reservoir is indeed to supply water to the metro Atlanta region, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has one year to comply.

Georgia Governor Nathan Deal hailed the ruling as a “great victory” for Georgia. 

The 2001 lawsuit, filed by Brown and Silliman on the state’s behalf, is the only suit left standing of all the cases relating to the Corps’ authority to operate Lake Lanier for water supply. The others, by Alabama, Florida and the Southeastern Federal Power Customers, have been dismissed by the 11th Circuit. In addition to agreeing with Georgia on the authorized purposes of Lake Lanier, the 11th Circuit held that Alabama and Florida's attacks on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ current operations were improper and should be dismissed.

“This is one of the more important water cases in the United States,” said Silliman. “It concerns the primary source of water supply to more than three million people, and also affects the availability of water for recreation, hydropower, fish and wildlife, and other needs.”