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Florida and Georgia will have until the end of January to file new arguments in the legal fight over water use impacting the Apalachicola River system, a special master said this week.
Paul J. Kelly, a senior judge on the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals who is serving as special master, set a Jan. 31 deadline for the initial briefs and a Feb. 28 deadline for reply briefs.
Kelly denied Florida’s request for additional evidence-gathering in the case, which focuses on Florida’s assertion that Georgia’s overconsumption of water in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river system is harming the Apalachicola region.
“Given the voluminous record in the case resulting from virtually unlimited discovery and a lengthy trial, additional discovery will only lengthen the proceedings, delay the outcome and increase litigation costs,” Kelly wrote in an order Tuesday.
The case has already been through a five-week trial before another special master and has generated more than 7 million pages of documents.
Kelly said there is “ample evidence” from the prior litigation to draw conclusions on issues like the scope of Georgia’s water use and the impact on the Florida oyster industry in Apalachicola Bay.
Kelly is the second special master appointed by the U.S. Supreme Court to handle the case.
Ralph Lancaster, a Maine lawyer who acted as the first special master, rejected Florida’s original plea for relief, which began with a lawsuit filed in 2013. But Lancaster’s decision was overturned in a 5-4 ruling in June by the Supreme Court, which said the special master’s findings “applied too strict a standard.”
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