The interminable fight between Alabama, Florida and Georgia is so confounding that both sides — Alabama and Florida over here, Georgia over there — can claim victory.
That's yet another reason why we can't wait until this never-ending tussle is over — as long as Alabama's interests are protected, of course.
Last week, a federal judge refused Florida's request to release more water from a Georgia dam. Florida claimed that without more Chattahootchee River water sent south, three threatened or endangered species of sturgeon and mussels would be adversely affected.
Georgia wasted little time before it rolled out its PR message that tried to put a positive spin on a court case that's been anything but kind to the Peach State.
"This was a total victory for Georgia, and it means this side issue — this distracting issue of endangered species claims — is resolved," Bert Brantley, a spokesman for Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, told The Associated Press.
Meanwhile, a similar sentiment oozed out of Montgomery, where Gov. Bob Riley still seems confident this his state's not only in the right, it's a foregone conclusion that the case's eventual and final resolution will be in his state's favor.
The judge's ruling against Florida's environmental request also included the acknowledgement that the Corps hadn't implemented its current Lake Lanier plan with the adequate environmental evaluation.
Or, put simply, the Corps wasn't doing what it was supposed to be doing — which has been Alabama's stance all along.
"This is another victory for Alabama's position in the water-war litigation," Gov. Bob Riley said. "Alabama has argued for years that the Corps had failed to follow the law with its operational plan for Lake Lanier, and the Court has now vindicated Alabama's position."
So, one decision by a federal judge caused another major ripple in the weekly saga of the tri-state water war. We should have expected as much.
Nevertheless, the baseline issue hasn't changed.
The judge didn't alter the case's main point: That metro Atlanta is withdrawing too much water from Lake Lanier, and Georgia has two years to work out a water-sharing plan with Alabama and Florida.
If there's not a doable solution by 2012, the judge will cut off metro Atlanta's Lake Lanier faucet.
Georgia can trump small victories all it wants, but time's still ticking away at that deadline. Negotiating a water-sharing plan that's fair for all is the only victory that's really worth cheering.