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Alabama, Georgia oppose Florida plan

By Phillip Rawls
Associated Press Writer

MONTGOMERY — Alabama and Georgia officials are opposing a proposal by Florida to extend its environmental review authority into their states, with one Alabama politician comparing it to an invasion.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has notified the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that it plans to seek approval to review projects receiving federal funds or requiring federal permits in parts of Alabama and Georgia.

The application would cover 50 miles northward from the Florida state line as well as any watersheds for rivers that flow into Florida.

In Alabama, that would cover the southern quarter of the state and extend into parts of North Alabama. In Georgia it would cover the southernmost part of the state and extend north of Atlanta.

In a letter Thursday to NOAA and Florida officials, Alabama Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks said that "we view this request as an attempt by Florida to invade Alabama, which poses a serious threat to Alabama waters and Alabama economic development opportunities."

Alabama Gov. Bob Riley's administration is also planning a response, spokesman Jeff Emerson said Thursday.

Georgia Coastal Resources Division Manager Susan Shipman and Carol Couch, director of the Georgia Environmental Protection Division, expressed concerns in a letter earlier this month.

They said it is not reasonable for Florida "to assert interstate coastal effects from federal actions 50 miles, much less 435 miles, into Georgia's interior."

Dee Ann Miller, spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, said Florida is seeking something that some other coastal states have already done under the federal Coastal Zone Management Act.

She said Florida is not attempting to take control of federal programs in other states or usurp any power.

"What we are doing is we are trying to define the circumstances under which our state would be identified as an interested party for projects that could impact our state in a number of different ways, to ensure that we can review and comment on such projects," she said Thursday.

She pointed out that Florida's neighboring states have the authority to apply to do the same thing Florida proposes.

The issue is the latest flare-up in the water wars that have been going on between Florida, Georgia and Alabama since 1990, when Florida and Alabama sued Georgia, contending it was trying to take too much water from the Chattahoochee River for use in the Atlanta area.

Barbara Gibson, executive director of the Choctawhatchee, Pea and Yellow Rivers Watershed Management Authority, said Florida's proposal could cover any industrial development along the waterways, drinking water projects, new riverside residential developments and farming irrigation.

South Alabama legislators who joined Sparks for a news conference Thursday said their area and the Florida Panhandle often compete for the same industries, and Florida's proposal could hamstring Alabama.

"I believe it to be economic posturing on their part," Sen. Jimmy Holley, D-Elba, said.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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