Sunday, August 23, 2009
There was a recent conclusion by Michael Campana ( AKA Aquadoc) that a federal watermaster should have been appointed in the long-standing Georgia, Florida, Alabama dispute on the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (ACF) River system. (This picture is my kind of watermaster!). Anyway, normally an appointed watermaster would only administer the final settlement agreement adopted either by mutual agreement of the parties, or the courts. Mr. Campana, however, suggested in this case the watermaster should be appointed early - to help mediate the settlement agreement, then continue on to administer it. On its face, this sounds reasonable enough.
But, some states that have gone through a watermaster situation (Texas and New Mexico on the Rio Grande River) have found out first hand the incredible influence wielded by this person - in essence a lightning rod. And being a federal appointee, this makes the prospect even more problematic for a died-in-the-wool supporter of "states rights" in all things water. And to have such an influence in the settlement development phase prior to the administration phase could be double trouble. I don't think this is as good an idea as it may sound on the surface. If Georgia, Florida and Alabama want to retain the maximum state control over their water resources and uses, the last thing they want is a federal watermaster appointed - for any involvement in this dispute.
To be fair, Mr. Campana recognized my concerns. He wrote: "This step might be viewed as some as an unwarranted Federal intrusion..", and "...is a drastic step, but a watermaster is needed to “persuade’ Alabama, Florida, and Georgia to resolve their differences..". I have to ask: How does appointing a federal watermaster "persuade" these states to solve their differences? It's the proverbial federal foot in the door to influence the process. The threat of placing a watermaster should motivate these states sufficiently - assuming they're not all asleep at the switch. And if after this step they cannot solve their differences? They deserve a federal watermaster and the rest of the US can watch and learn what needs to be avoided - again. I'm going to completley ignore Mr. Campana's recommendation for who his watermaster should be. Talk about lightning rods.