Legal conflicts over waterways can quickly become very complicated, especially when they involve waterways that cross state lines, and therefore involve the interests of multiple states. In a ruling that could have implications for Tennessee waterways, the United States Supreme Court recently called for a special master to investigate a water dispute between two other states.

At issue is the Apalochicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river basin, or ACF, which runs between Georgia’s Blue Ridge foothills and northern Florida before emptying into the Gulf of Mexico. Florida has long contended that Georgia uses too much of the water, and that this causes harm to Florida’s Apalachicola River, and even leads to higher salt content in its Apalachicola Bay, severely damaging its oyster industry.

For many years, the two states have tried to resolve their dispute through negotiation.

Florida has called for Georgia to put caps on its water usage, but Georgia officials argue that the caps are too strict. Georgia relies on the ACF to supply water to the heavily populated Atlanta metropolitan area, and the state contends that the caps would leave its residents without adequate water supplies.

Last year, a Supreme Court-appointed special master found that Georgia’s water usage did indeed cause harm to Florida, but was unable to determine whether the caps that Florida requested would solve the problem. Rather than decide that question on its own, the Supreme Court’s recent decision calls for another special master to investigate the potential effectiveness of the requested water use limits.

It appears that this long-running dispute is far from over.

Waterway disputes  can have big implications not just for state agencies, but for businesses and individual landowners as well. If you need help with a legal dispute over waterways, contact a lawyer with experience with the many complex issues involved.