With Sen. Thad Cochran’s (R-Miss.) departure from the U.S. Senate on April 1, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Tuscaloosa) is set to become the next chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
That has some on the Georgia side of the long-running water war over the Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa, and Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river basins between Florida and Alabama worried Congress will enact legislation to give Alabama an edge according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Tamar Hallerman.
“The 83-year-old has kept Georgia’s lawyers and congressional delegation in a constant state of paranoia over the past two decades by quietly using government spending bills and other must-pass legislation to aid Alabama’s position in the tri-state water fight,” Hallerman wrote. “Georgia lawmakers have mostly thwarted Shelby’s under-the-radar moves by banding together and going over his head to party leaders. But Shelby’s likely promotion could change the political dynamic on Capitol Hill, where committee chairmen have outsized power to look out for their interests.”
The population explosion of the Atlanta metropolitan area has led to an increased demand for water, which it has met by drawing from the Chattahoochee River. That according to those on the Alabama and Florida side of the issue crying foul given it means less downstream flow from the Chattahoochee. It has especially impacted oyster harvesting in the Apalachicola Bay of Florida.
Hallerman wrote that Shelby has attempted to insert language into government spending legislation for what he has referred to as “equity in the distribution of the water,” but those efforts have been thwarted by Georgia lawmakers in Washington, D.C.
With Shelby’s new role, it may be harder for Georgia’s congressional delegation to continue to resist his efforts, Hallerman explained.
“Ever since a 2015 blowup, the Georgia delegation has been able to contain Shelby’s efforts. But that could all change in the months ahead,” she wrote. “Shelby’s promotion is all but assured in the seniority-focused Senate, and he has backup on Senate Appropriations from Florida Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, since the two states frequently work together on the issue. No Georgia lawmaker sits on that Senate committee.”
Shelby joined the Environment and Public Works Committee in 2017, which is the committee that authorizes projects of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as laid out by the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA). The Army Corps of Engineers’ activities are traditionally authorized every two years by Congress through the WRDA and are funded annually in appropriations bills, which will give Shelby significant influence.
Neither of Georgia’s two U.S. Senators, Sens. David Perdue and Johnny Isakson have a seat on the Environment and Public Works or Appropriations committees.
In a statement provided to Yellowhammer News, Shelby urged a solution at the state level, but maintained he would seek to “preserve” Alabama’s interests.
“It is my continued hope that the Alabama, Florida, and Georgia governors will work this out at the state level,” Shelby said. “However, I will carefully consider all options to preserve our state’s interests.”
Jeff Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and works as the editor of Breitbart TV. Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeff_poor.