Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Special Master Scolds in Water Wars

A 25-year water war between Florida and Georgia continues as Special master, Ralph Lancaster, previously appointed by the U.S. Supreme Court to help resolve the dispute, expressed dismay this month at the lack of progress toward settlement. Lancaster already urged attorneys for each state to settle the water wars case amongst themselves, rather than risk an unsatisfactory outcome for all involved. The federal lawsuit features Florida’s ailing oyster industry against Georgia’s right to use Chattahoochee River water across metro Atlanta. Florida states that Georgia’s overconsumption of water in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin, which includes Lake Lanier, is creating economic hardship, particularly on the oyster industry in the Florida Panhandle region's Apalachicola Bay. Georgia also seeks to maintain full use of the Flint River and its tributaries for farmers in southwest Georgia. The rivers join at the Florida border, becoming the Apalachicola River. Crucial to Florida's seafood folks is a fresh water-salt water balance for oysters to survive in the Apalachicola Bay. There's been no material progress on a global settlement since last year and the Special Master declined to extend this marathon by pushing pre-trial expert deadlines. He accused legal teams of ignoring earlier suggestions to pare down discovery evidence to basic, hardcore issues and instead plunging “even deeper into discovery of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of complex issues that will ultimately be left on the wayside, millions of pages of hard copies and hundreds of gigabytes of electronic files.” Since agreeing on a mediator, the states have only reported forming a basic mediation framework. Lancaster said in a teleconference of the parties, “Let me suggest...that if you had invested up to 10 percent of the effort and time and expense you have used in discovery on mediation, we would not be here spinning our wheels.” See more here-- bit.ly/1USyRNo