WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court unanimously dismissed Florida's water lawsuit against Georgia on Thursday, ending the long-running legal fight between the two states.
The court rejected Florida's claim that Georgia uses too much of the water that flows from the Atlanta suburbs to the Gulf of Mexico. Florida said its neighbor's overconsumption is to blame for the decimation of Florida's oyster industry.
Justice Amy Coney Barrett wrote for the court that Florida failed to prove its case, which had been before the court twice in the past three years.
“Considering the record as a whole, Florida has not shown that it is ‘highly probable’ that Georgia’s alleged overconsumption played more than a trivial role in the collapse of Florida’s oyster fisheries,” Barrett wrote.
The court's newest justice cautioned that she and her colleagues were not equipped to say what accounts for the steep decline in oysters from Apalachicola Bay.
“Of course, the precise causes of the Bay’s oyster collapse remain a subject of ongoing scientific debate. As judges, we lack the expertise to settle that debate and do not purport to do so here,” Barrett wrote.
She also noted that, even with its high-court victory, “Georgia has an obligation to make reasonable use of Basin waters in order to help conserve that increasingly scarce resource.”
Georgia officials called the decision a vindication of their water management.