The wide-ranging $10 billion water bill that passed Congress early Saturday may have been most notable in Georgia for what it did not include.
The legislation eliminated a 2014 directive that warns the governors of Florida, Georgia and Alabama to negotiate a settlement in the decades-long water dispute – or risk Congress intervening.
While a compromise seems unlikely in the near future – at least not before a judge decides Florida’s high-stakes water lawsuit against Georgia – the Peach State’s neighbors had fought to keep the language intact to give Georgia more of a reason to settle.
“The states need to be negotiating water sharing agreements,” U.S. Rep. Martha Roby told the Montgomery Advertiser. “When that provision came out, this bill lost my support. It’s the wrong message to send the states at a time when the governors say they are actually making progress.”
Georgia’s contingent in Washington says Congress should have no role in the water dispute. U.S. Rep. Doug Collins called it a “state issue” and the delegation united behind the fight to erase the directive. Georgia’s power-play worked, and the language was stripped from the final version.
“I am proud to have worked with our Georgia Congressional Delegation to get Congress out of the ongoing tristate water dispute between Georgia, Alabama, and Florida, which should be resolved at the state level,” said U.S. Sen. David Perdue.
The measure, approved by a 78-21 vote early Saturday, is now awaiting President Barack Obama’s signature.
Read more of the AJC’s water wars coverage: