June 24, 2008

Florida Will Sue Corps Over Plan

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Florida said it intends to sue the Army Corps of Engineers for violating the Endangered Species Act, a move which could further complicate strained regional relations over shared water resources.

Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Michael Sole said in a letter that the Corps' plans to reduce water flow in the Apalachicola River would jeopardize threatened and endangered wildlife.

The seven-page letter, dated Thursday, notes concerns by biologists and environmentalists about the impact low water levels could have on Gulf sturgeon fish, and three mussels: the fat threeridge, the purple bankclimber and the Chipola slabshell.

The lawsuit throws another wrench in the tug-of-war over water among Georgia, Florida and Ala-bama that has been waged since the 1990s. Caught in the middle is the Corps, the federal agency charged with managing the resources.

Georgia, which wants to keep more of the water stored in its reservoirs, points to the drought gripping the state as evidence that federal authorities should change the way reservoirs are managed. Alabama and Florida, meanwhile, say increased flow is needed to support not only thethreatened species but also downstream power plants and fisheries. Florida's announcement brought a backlash from Georgia politicians and business leaders. Georgia Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle called the possible lawsuit "extraordinarily disappointing."

"I find it unconscionable that the state of Florida would choose to elevate the water needs of the bankclimber and fat threeridge mussel over the needs of millions of human beings in Georgia," he said.

Originally published by Associated Press.

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