TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) – Amid an ongoing legal fight the governors of Florida and Georgia met behind closed doors on Tuesday to try to resolve a long-running water dispute.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott met for an hour Tuesday with Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal at the governor’s mansion located about a mile north of the state Capitol.
The meeting comes as the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to hear a challenge from Florida seeking to limit Georgia’s withdrawals from the Chattahoochee River.
Deal requested the meeting with Scott.
Florida argues that Georgia is guzzling more than its share of water to slake the thirst of growing Atlanta at the expense of the Apalachicola Bay oyster fishery, which relies on fresh river water mixing with the salty sea to thrive.
In 2013, Florida Gov. Rick Scott appealed to the Supreme Court after the oyster industry nearly collapsed, causing a federal disaster declaration.
A spokeswoman for Scott gave few details about the meeting.
“Governor Scott will continue to work to protect the families whose livelihoods depend on the Apalachicola Bay,” said Jackie Schutz in a statement.
A spokesman for Deal also declined to comment citing the ongoing litigation.
The legal battle over the river system’s water, which is also shared by Alabama, has gone on for decades. It hit a crucial point in 2009, when a federal judge ruled that the city of Atlanta had little right to take water from Lake Lanier, a federal reservoir on the Chattahoochee River.
But in 2011 the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned that decision, and instead ordered the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to figure out how to allocate the water. The Corps operates dams that control water flows in the river system.
The Corps has said it will take years of study before a new plan can be devised – time Florida’s oystermen said they do not have as they watch their catch disappearing.
So Florida decided to seek Supreme Court review to speed things along – a move opposed by Georgia.