Georgia Says

The Times, Gainesville, Ga., on the waters between Georgia and Florida:

At one time, the biggest competition between Georgia and Florida came each fall in Jacksonville over cocktails and a football game. Now when our two states clash, it nearly always involves water and courtrooms.

Last week, Florida Gov. Rick Scott said his state intended to sue Georgia over water flows into Apalachicola Bay, the last stop of the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river system that includes Lake Lanier. Sunshine State officials claim Georgia is taking more than its "fair share" of freshwater from the river system that feeds the bay. Whatever they mean by "fair share" is anyone's guess, but it likely means "more than we want."

For more than two decades, the states have sparred over water rights to the river basin, with Alabama involved as well. It's a story folks here know well: Georgia needs water for commercial and residential needs, including agriculture; Alabama needs it for its power plants along the river; and Florida is concerned about its oysters in Apalachicola Bay.

During recent years of drought, the battle over water made sense. As we learned over the years, many communities along the river system rely on steady flows for their livelihood.

But now, in the midst of the wettest summer seen in years, when many areas have been washed out by floods, the ground is saturated and the only things bigger than the weeds are the mosquitoes, Florida decides a lawsuit is the best way to get the water it wants.

Give us a break.

As we Georgians shake our heads over this ill-advised way to water the shellfish, let's point out a few obvious facts.

Conservation methods need to be employed, sure, and growth should be managed to ensure all resources are used properly. Georgia should, in fact, share water from the system fairly with those downriver in our state, Alabama and Florida.

But the way to accomplish this is through an equitable, negotiated deal, not by marching everyone back to court time and again in hopes of defeating the other side.

When those lawyers go to work, it's likely they will be carrying umbrellas. And with heavy rain forecast today in Tallahassee, Scott can look out his window and see plenty of that precious commodity his state only seems willing to acquire at the end of a legal rifle barrel

• • •

Savannah Morning News on DOT's Golden rule:

It's reassuring to know that someone like Keith Golden is running the Georgia Department of Transportation, one of the most important arms of state government.

This newspaper strongly criticized the DOT chief in this space for ongoing construction delays on the new Skidaway Island bridge.

This $22.5 million project was supposed to be finished last November. Instead, it appears the work won't get completed until late September. If then.

The inability of the DOT and its private contractor to finish the job has frustrated thousands of commuters, not to mention state lawmakers who represent this part of Chatham County. Faced with mounting criticism, it would have been easy for Commissioner Golden to lapse into buck-passing mode.

That's what many public officials do when they feel the heat, from President Obama down to lowly pencil-pushers.

But not Golden.

Interestingly, Golden isn't a politician in the traditional sense of that word. He's a career DOT man, someone who holds degrees in civil engineering from Georgia Tech and has worked for the department as an engineer and manager for 26 years.

He got the DOT's top job last year, when the 13-member DOT board picked him to replace the former commissioner, Vance Smith, a former state lawmaker who ran a private construction business. Smith was forced out because of a controversy over how DOT contracts were awarded; Golden was the surprise pick to succeed him.

It's equally surprising — in a good way — that the commissioner isn't someone who makes excuses. That buys him credibility — something several previous DOT commissioners have lacked.

Thus when he writes, as he did today, "Soon you will have a safe, modern bridge across the Narrows, a bridge that will well serve your community for decades to come," people may be more inclined to believe him than before.

That's good for a department with a $2 billion annual budget and 4,500 employees. More importantly, it's good for the people of Georgia who need better roads and bridges.

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