Tennessee v Mississippi water fight ended in win for Mississippi – unless you’re in Tennessee

D.C. Circuit judges lift order that blocked Tennessee from taking over public resources from Mississippi The battle between the state of Mississippi and Tennessee over control of water supplies in the Mississippi delta appears…

Tennessee v Mississippi water fight ended in win for Mississippi – unless you're in Tennessee

D.C. Circuit judges lift order that blocked Tennessee from taking over public resources from Mississippi

The battle between the state of Mississippi and Tennessee over control of water supplies in the Mississippi delta appears to be at an end.

After a nearly two-year political battle, two federal appeals court judges on Wednesday reversed the federal government’s ban on Tennessee taking over Mississippi’s entire drinking water.

The order from three judges of the US appellate court for the DC circuit (PDF) ends the years-long battle that pitted the states against each other over scarce water supplies.

Mississippi had asked for the ban to be lifted for the state to receive a share of the water that it has acquired by building pump systems, a request that Tennessee opposed.

The order on Wednesday lifts a January 2014 court order by a three-judge panel of the DC circuit that blocked Tennessee from taking over the Mississippi water.

This means that Tennessee may now start working with local governments and conservation groups to take control of public water systems and offer Mississippi residents water that is treated and safe enough to drink.

Tennessee still cannot touch water exports to other states, but long-term improvements in treatment technology could help protect it from environmental problems.

“I’m happy and relieved to see this in the rearview mirror,” Mississippi governor Phil Bryant told the Associated Press after the court’s order came down.

“What this does is put a statute in front of us that says yes, Tennessee can contribute to water protection efforts that are already being done in Mississippi,” he said.

The last point was made by the court on Wednesday.

Both Mississippi and Tennessee were once part of one kingdom, the Mississippi confederacy, which had sovereignty over the entire region. After the civil war, its state governments became independent of the empire.

But even after being founded separately, the states still met under federal supervision. The federal government supplied Mississippi with 5.5m acre-feet of water for its drinking, industrial and sewage systems from the mid-19th century until it stopped in 2007.

Tennessee gets less water. But it was able to tap into the south-western coastal plain due to previous court decisions that let it sue Mississippi for old water claims.

Tennessee pays no federal taxes and builds all its water systems with tax dollars, so it did not need a water grant from Mississippi.

When the state’s new governor, Bill Haslam, began pushing for control over the water, Mississippi’s Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann moved to stop the states from sharing it.

Haslam and Mississippi governor Phil Bryant sparred in the years since, but the dispute didn’t gain a serious political life after President Donald Trump, who was and is the son of a Tennessee resident, showed interest in the states’ dispute in early 2017.

After Trump proposed spending $19bn on a so-called “border wall” along the US-Mexico border, Mississippi’s governor Phil Bryant blasted the president and Tennessee governor Bill Haslam, whom he had both previously backed in the Republican primaries, saying they “should be ashamed of themselves” for pushing for a legal settlement.

Haslam fired back saying that it was “preposterous” to claim that the project was the nation’s priority.

“I haven’t had a chance to take a closer look at it, but to my reading, the whole thing looks pretty weak for all that’s being spent on it,” the Tennessee governor told the Knoxville News Sentinel in a Feb. 3, 2018 report.

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