Deadline set Dec. 30 The president of Florida State University has been selected to help Georgia, Florida and Alabama settle their dispute over the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river basin.

Talbot "Sandy" D'Alemberte, also a former president of the American Bar Association, will attempt to broker an agreement by a Dec. 30 deadline to equitably allocate the waters. The governors of the three states agreed to the non-binding mediation effort.

Behind closed doors The governors, along with Lindsay Thomas, a federal representative in the negotiations, also agreed that the mediation will take place behind closed doors. "We look forward to working with him to make further progress toward a resolution," said Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes.

The mediation will not include the other river basin - the Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa - where waters are being fought over by Georgia and Alabama. However, the states have indicated they'll also seek mediation for this dispute.

The current talks for settling the water war began on Feb. 28. Deadlines have been extended three times. However, the negotiations reached an impasse last spring when the states refused to budge on their demands.

The tri-state struggle over the two river basins has been going on for more than 10 years. Georgia and Alabama want enough water to fuel future growth and Florida wants enough to protect its oyster industry in Apalachicola Bay, where the Apalachicola River meets the Gulf of Mexico. A key issue is the anticipated growth in metro Atlanta's water use.

Asked to assist D'Alemberte will not be asked to render a decision, but instead will seek to assist the states in reaching a voluntary settlement so they can avoid going to court. Before the agreement can become binding, there must be public notice and a public comment period, which includes hearings in all three states.

The negotiations over both river basins are being carried out under two interstate compacts approved by Congress and the legislatures of the three states.

e-mail: phollis58@mindspring.com.

For other articles dealing with the on-going discussions over water resources in the Southeast please access www.southeastfarmpress.com.