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November 6, 2018 1:37pm

GLI urges formation of Indiana’s Transborder Water Resources Authority

Last week, GLI sent letters to Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb and legislative leadership in the state House and Senate encouraging them to make appointments to the Transborder Water Resources Authority established by GLI-backed legislation in 2017. “Greater Louisville Inc., the Metro Chamber of Commerce, encourages you to prioritize the Authority by making the four statutorily required gubernatorial appointments to the Authority and working with legislative leadership to ensure the work delegated to this body is completed in a timely manner,” the letter to Governor Holcomb stated.  

In 2017, GLI worked closely with our partner One Southern Indiana, the Chamber of Commerce for Clark and Floyd counties, in support of House Bill 1211, which formally authorized the establishment of the Transborder Water Resources Authority. The policy intent of the bill was to avoid the threat of conflict and costly litigation between Indiana and its neighboring states, including Kentucky.

Such problems are far from theoretical. Beginning in the 1980s, Florida entered into conflict with Georgia over the ACF River Basin, incurring tens of millions of dollars in legal fees. It is estimated that Florida’s expenses reached $41 million in 2017, with a total of $72 million in legal fees incurred since 2001. Similarly, the state of Mississippi initiated a federal lawsuit against Memphis, Tennessee, concerning an aquifer that runs beneath the border of the two states. In a 2015 filing, Mississippi was seeking $600 million in damages. It should be noted that an aquifer also lies beneath Kentucky and Indiana.

These types of conflicts are costly and impede economic growth by consuming resources that could be more effectively used elsewhere and by harming important interstate relationships and partnerships. More importantly, these conflicts could easily have been avoided had these states begun a dialogue on shared water issues earlier on before problems emerged. This is specifically what House Bill 1211 sought to accomplish by forming a Transborder Water Resources Authority, which will study shared water resources in an effort to get ahead of future conflicts and, ideally, prevent them from happening in the first place.

According to the text of House Bill 1211, the Authority is to consist of 12 members: four appointed by the Governor; four ex officio members; and four members appointed by House and Senate leadership.

The sooner the Authority is formed, the sooner it can get to work identifying areas of potential conflict and coming up with solutions on how to ensure that shared water resources continue contributing to regionalism in areas like Greater Louisville.