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Georgia v. Corps of Eng'rs

Citation: 33 ELR 20015
No. No. 02-10135, 302 F.3d 1242/(11th Cir., 08/21/2002)

The court reverses a district court judgment denying Florida's and a hydropower company's motions to intervene as defendants in Georgia's lawsuit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (the Corps) to compel the Corps to increase the water supply available to Atlanta. The court first holds that Florida's motion to intervene was timely. The court also holds that Florida has a direct, substantial, and legally protectable interest in the subject matter of Georgia's lawsuit. The remedy sought in Georgia's lawsuit will have a practical effect on water flowing in the Chattahoochee River, water that is part of the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (ACF) Basin and to which Florida has a right. The court also holds that Florida has proven that the disposition of this action may impair or impede its ability to protect its interest in the waters of the ACF Basin. Despite Georgia's argument to the contrary, it is not clear what impact an order compelling the Corps to enter the long-term contracts Georgia seeks in this lawsuit would have on the Compact negotiations between Alabama, Florida, and Georgia. Further, there exists the possibility that the historical pattern of extending the Compact deadline will continue and that the three states will remain at an impasse regarding the allocation of water. Additionally, Florida has no clearcut and compulsory right to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court. As long as the members of the Compact continue to negotiate, it seems unlikely that the Supreme Court would choose to hear an equitable apportionment claim involving the ACF Basin. The court also holds that the Corps cannot adequately represent Florida's or the hydropower company's interests in Georgia's lawsuit. Thus, the district court erroneously denied Florida's motion to intervene as of right.

The court next holds that the hydropower company has a direct, substantial, and legally protectable interest in the subject matter of Georgia's lawsuit. Georgia's water supply request would result in a diminution of the overall production of hydropower. Additionally, the disposition of this action could impair the company's ability to protect its interest. The company is involved in ongoing litigation with the Corps, and its interests in that case could be impaired by the denial of intervention here. Further, the court holds that the Corps will not adequately represent its interests. Lastly, the company's motion to intervene was timely. Thus, the district court erred in denying the company's motion to intervene.