Thursday, February 16, 2017
FLORIDA LOST WATER RIGHTS CASE TO GEORGIA DUE TO AG PAMELA JO BONDI'S LEGAL MALPRACTICE
Florida Attorney General PAMELA JO BONDI failed to join an indispensable party -- the Army Corps of Engineers -- in the Florida v. Georgia water rights case, resulting in the scholarly Maine lawyer who heard six weeks of testimony recommending the Supreme Court reject Florida's claims. BONDI's office made a mistake that even a law student would not make -- failure to join an indispensable party. She stinks on ice as a lawyer, an elected official and a human being. Her malpractice was shared by other lawyers, including her staff, the FDEP General Counsel and two corporate law firms, who have billed tens of millions of dollars over the years. I filed three Open Records requests tonight, seeking answers as to why the Army Corps was not named, how much was paid in legal fees and how the State of Florida hired the Latham & Watkins law firm in Washington, D.C. and Tallahassee and the Aqualawyers law firm of Nebraska. Among the lawyers on the case are George W. Bush's last Solicitor General, GREGORY GARRE.
Too bad that Dave Aronberg was not elected Florida Attorney General in 2010.
Too bad Florida Democrats nominated DANIEL SAUL GELBER, a corporate criminal lawyer from BP's law firm, AKERMAN SENTERFITT.
Too bad Florida voters elect so many dopey deluded dull Republicans who screw the people -- vacuous airheads like PAMELA JO BONDI as AG and vicious varmints like RICHARD LYNN SCOTT as Governor.
SUPREME COURT SPECIAL MASTER RULES FOR GEORGIA IN WATER RIGHTS CASE (NSOF/MIAMI HERALD)
A woman checks the size of the oysters from Apalachicola Bay in northern Florida in 2010. The state’s Apalachicola oyster industry collapsed in 2012. Florida contends decreased water flows in the Apalachicola River, due to Georgia’s water use, led to the collapse. A special master overseeing the dispute between Florida and Georgia noted in his report, published Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2017, the following: “There is little question that Florida has suffered harm from decreased flows in the (Apalachicola) River.” WALTER MICHOT Miami Herald file photo
BY LLOYD DUNKELBERGER
News Service of Florida
— In a major setback to Florida, a special master appointed by the U.S. Supreme Court sided Tuesday with Georgia in a decades-old legal fight over water flow into the Apalachicola River.
Ralph Lancaster, a Maine lawyer appointed by the nation’s highest court to oversee the case, said Florida has not proven “by clear and convincing evidence” that imposing a cap on Georgia’s water use “would provide a material benefit to Florida.”
“Because Florida has not met its burden, I recommend that the court deny Florida’s request for relief,” Lancaster wrote in a 137-page report.
The recommendation, which heads to the U.S. Supreme Court, is the result of a 2013 lawsuit filed by Florida alleging that Georgia diverts too much water from the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river system and that the diversions have damaged Apalachicola Bay and Franklin County’s seafood industry.
Georgia countered that any limits on its water use will undermine its economy, including the growth of the Atlanta area and the state’s agriculture industry in southeastern Georgia.
A key finding in Lancaster’s report was that, since the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers — which controls water flow through the region in a series of dams and reservoirs — was not a party to the lawsuit, he could not devise a settlement between Florida and Georgia without the Corps’ participation.
“Because the Corps is not a party, no decree entered by this court can mandate any change in the Corps’ operations in the basin,” Lancaster wrote. “Without the ability to bind the Corps, I am not persuaded that the court can assure Florida the relief it seeks.”
The lawsuit is the latest development in a decades-old “water war” between the two states, which has led to $72 million in legal costs for Florida, from 2001 to this year, according to the House Appropriations Committee.
Legal fees in this year alone could reach $41 million, which prompted a budget amendment from the state Department of Environmental Protection, which was tabled as lawmakers review the legal fees.
Georgia officials were pleased by the special master’s recommendation.
“I’m encouraged by the special master’s report, which was issued today. It appears to support the position taken by GA,” tweeted Gov. Nathan Deal.
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office is reviewing Lancaster’s report along with the outside counsel hired by the state, said Kylie Mason, Bondi’s press secretary.
Dan Tonsmeire, the Apalachicola riverkeeper, said he was disappointed by the ruling, noting that the Apalachicola Bay system remains in jeopardy without a more equitable resolution.
“We don’t have any impetus to move forward,” he said, noting many of the special master’s findings demonstrate that “to a large degree that Georgia’s water use is causing an impact.”
In his report, Lancaster supported several key assertions by Florida including the cause of the 2012 collapse of the Apalachicola oyster industry, which normally supplies 90 percent of the oysters in Florida and 10 percent of the nation’s oysters.
“There is little question that Florida has suffered harm from decreased flows in the (Apalachicola) River,” Lancaster wrote.
Lancaster rejected Georgia’s argument that it was Florida’s mismanagement of the oyster beds that led to the 2012 collapse rather than the decreased water flow that led to higher salt levels in Apalachicola Bay.
He said it was the higher salinity, not overharvesting, that allowed an “unprecedented” invasion of oyster predators into the bay, devastating the population.
Lancaster also cited Georgia’s agricultural consumption of water as a factor on the basin water flow, calling it “largely unrestrained.”
“Agricultural irrigation has increased dramatically in Georgia since 1970,” Lancaster wrote.
However, Lancaster did fault for Florida for building its case on the harm caused by “low flows” in the system during times of drought, while failing to show how a cap on Georgia’s water use would help during more normal or heavy rainfall periods.
But his findings seem to hinge on the role of the Corps of Engineers and the fact that the federal agency is not a party in the case.
“The evidence presented at trial suggests that the Corps’ reservoir operations are a significant, and perhaps the primary, factor influencing the amount of streamflow crossing the state line during times of drought and low flows,” Lancaster wrote.
The case has been costly for both states and has left Florida and Georgia officials deeply divided.
Lancaster noted that reviewing confidential reports on efforts to reach a settlement from the legal teams from the two states “would lead any independent, objective person to conclude that the parties were describing entirely different mediations.”
Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/environment/article132784134.html#storylink=cpy