Bush Administration Caught In States’ Water Rights Dispute
At a time when some experts predict the United States could face a large water crisis, the Bush administration now finds itself caught in a tug-of-war between several states over crucial water rights:
Three Southeastern governors who are in Washington to lobby for water rights amid a potentially catastrophic drought are likely to put the Bush administration on the spot.
If the administration decides to bolster Georgia’s drinking supply, Alabama and Florida may claim it’s crippling their economies to satisfy uncontrolled growth around Atlanta. If it continues releasing water downstream to Alabama and Florida, Georgia could argue that one of the nation’s largest cities is being hung out to dry.
Making matters worse for President Bush is the fact that all three states have Republican governors whose reputations could rise or fall based on their handling of the crisis.
“It does put him into a bind,” said Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, R-Georgia. “I think there’s some give and take on everybody’s part, and I think the president is the only one that can sit down with these three governors and say, ‘Look, guys, we got a problem. … We’re all looking bad.”‘
This is the kind of issue that is “high concept.” If there’s an agreement that results in shortages at some point in a given state, there could be economic as well as political consequences.
Leaders from the states are scheduled to meet Thursday to try to hash out a temporary arrangement and later talk with Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, who was sent to the region last week by Bush.
In an interview Tuesday, Kempthorne said the administration has not made any decisions on the dispute, which dates back to the late 1980s.
This is an emerging issue:
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