Monday, January 25, 2010

U.S. Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Memphis, Ending Dispute with Mississippi Over Water Rights

Posted By on Mon, Jan 25, 2010 at 6:08 PM

click to enlarge MLGW president Jerry Collins announces decision Monday as Mayor Wharton, officials, and legal aides look on. - JB
  • JB
  • MLGW president Jerry Collins announces decision Monday as Mayor Wharton, officials, and legal aides look on.

The five-year legal dispute between Memphis and neighboring Mississippi over the city’s use of water from the underground aquifer shared by the two entities is over and done with — in the city’s favor. So said the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled Monday in favor of Memphis, MLGW, and the state of Tennessee.

The Court denied Mississippi’s petition to appeal its lawsuit against the city and MLGW, previously heard by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, and also denied Mississippi’s request to file an original lawsuit with the High Court.

What the Magnolia State had claimed was that the City of Memphis and MLGW were taking more than their share of water from the underground aquifer. The appeals court had ruled last year than Tennessee had to be named as a party to the suit and that only the Supreme Court could rule on the issue. The High Court’s action Monday finally put an end to things.

Both Jerry Collins, MLGW president and CEO, and Mayor A C Wharton hailed the decision at a press conference Monday afternoon in the Hall of Mayors. Wharton said the city had been a “good steward” in its use of water from the aquifer and that the Supreme Court had recognized that fact in its ruling.

The mayor said the city’s legal defense had involved “quite a bit” of expense but had been cost-effective because the outcome dispelled a “cloud over our community,” and an adverse decision could have further imperiled an already strained budget and thwarted the city’s economic progress.

Wharton expressed gratitude both that Monday’s decision finally ended a period of serious contention and that the city was perhaps better provided for than any other by a natural and bountiful water source he called “God’s filtration and treatment system.”

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