You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to myPalmBeachPost.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks

X

Welcome to myPalmBeachPost.com

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on myPalmBeachPost.com.

Despite adverse ruling, Bondi says water dispute with Georgia winnable


With the U.S. Supreme Court expected later this week to review a recommendation that would deny Florida relief in its decades-old water dispute with Georgia, Attorney General Pam Bondi said Tuesday the case is not over yet.

“I think we still have a very good chance of prevailing in this lawsuit,” Bondi said.

The nation’s highest court is scheduled to hold a closed-door conference Friday and review a report from a court-appointed special master who last month recommended that Florida be denied relief in its claim that Georgia’s overconsumption of water was damaging the ecology and economy of Apalachicola Bay in Franklin County.

RELATED: More Florida Legislature coverage

Ralph Lancaster, a Maine lawyer who was the special master, said he could not reach an equitable water-use settlement between Florida and Georgia without the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which was not a party to the lawsuit but controls water flow in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river system through a series of dams and reservoirs. That system runs from North Georgia south to Apalachicola Bay.

Lancaster has recommended that the Supreme Court “conclude that Florida has not proven by clear and convincing evidence that a decree imposing a cap on Georgia’s consumptive water use would result in additional streamflow in Florida at a time that would provide a material benefit to Florida.”

Lancaster’s rejection of Florida’s legal arguments has heightened the scrutiny of legal fees the state has paid in the case.

Latham & Watkins, the lead firm with Supreme Court expertise, has billed Florida for about $36 million since July 2015, according to records collected by the Florida House, which is reviewing the fees.

The state has contested $4.6 million of those fees and has not paid October and November invoices, the records showed.

Bondi said the Latham firm was selected in consultation with Gov. Rick Scott’s office, the Department of Environmental Protection and her solicitor general’s office.

She said the firm has done “a great job,” while adding, “I was very strong when I spoke with the Latham lawyers (in the last two weeks) about spending more money on it, too.”

Bondi said it was necessary to hire a firm with special expertise to handle the complex litigation, which involves a lawsuit filed in 2013 but also more than two decades of “water wars” between the two states over the issue.

“Water is everything to our state. You know how this is impacting the Panhandle,” Bondi said. “It has gone on for way too long. Is that a huge amount in attorney fees? Absolutely. Is it very specialized? Absolutely. Hopefully it will wrap up very soon.”

Asked why she believed the state could prevail despite Lancaster’s recommendation, Bondi declined to elaborate other than saying, “we have some ideas.”

“Let me let the lawyers on the case do their job with my (solicitor general’s) office,” she said.

But Bondi also emphasized the legal fight with Georgia, despite the cost, was necessary because of what was at stake.

“To protect our state and our water rights, we’ve got to do that,” Bondi said. “And I hope we do still have a chance at prevailing. After speaking with them (the Latham firm), I believe we do. If we don’t, we know again, after 20 years, we have done everything we can possibly do.”



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Politics

Border Patrol union takes center stage under Trump
Border Patrol union takes center stage under Trump

Once a week, union leaders representing U.S. Border Patrol agents host a radio show from a sleepy office park near San Diego, where studio walls are covered with an 8-by-12-foot American flag and portraits of President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.  For about an hour, the agents mix discussions about border security with shoptalk...
Melania Trump makes cameo as Palm Beach County GOP raises money at Mar-a-Lago
Melania Trump makes cameo as Palm Beach County GOP raises money at Mar-a-Lago

Melania Trump leaves a VIP reception before the Palm Beach County Republican Party’s Lincoln Day Dinner at Mar-a-Lago Club Friday in Palm Beach.
Political scandals aren't what they used to be — just ask Trey Radel
Political scandals aren't what they used to be — just ask Trey Radel

In late 2013, federal agents arrested Rep. Trey Radel after he attempted to buy $250 worth of cocaine near Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C. Three months later, the Florida Republican resigned from Congress. Now, three years after that, he's back with a book about his experience. Such is the cycle of a Washington scandal. "Democrazy"...
Trumps plot big hotel expansion, but political problems loom
Trumps plot big hotel expansion, but political problems loom

The Trump family is launching a new hotel chain in a bold expansion of a company that critics say is already too big and opaque for an enterprise whose owner sits in the Oval Office.  The chain, called Scion, will feature the first Trump-run hotels not to bear the family's gilded name. The hotels will feature modern, sleek interiors and communal...
McCray-DeVoursney runoff in Boynton ‘boiling down’ along racial lines
McCray-DeVoursney runoff in Boynton ‘boiling down’ along racial lines

Minister Bernard Wright thinks Dr. James DeVoursney is qualified enough to trust him as his dermatologist, but not enough to vote for the doctor to represent him as his city commissioner. That job should remain with a black man — specifically Vice Mayor Mack McCray — said Wright, who recently posted the opinion on his Facebook page, leading...
More Stories