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VOL. 123 | NO. 25 | Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Judge Dismisses Water Rights Lawsuit Against Memphis

AP

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OXFORD, Miss. (AP) - A federal judge has dismissed a $1 billion lawsuit that claims the city of Memphis is stealing Mississippi's water.

U.S. District Judge Glen H. Davidson dismissed the lawsuit this week, saying his court did not have jurisdiction in the case. He said the case should be before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Mississippi's lead counsel, Don Barrett, said he would appeal the decision.

Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood filed the lawsuit against the city of Memphis and the Memphis Light, Gas & Water Division. He claims city wells are tapping into a vast aquifer and are diverting millions of gallons a day.

The state is seeking payment for water taken since 1985, which is estimated at around $1 billion. Mississippi has dropped its request for injunctive relief, which would require that Memphis halt the diversion of water.

Attorneys for the city of Memphis have said it was "unprecedented for one state to seek damages against another governmental entity for groundwater that is moving between states."

The lawsuit focuses on an aquifer known in Tennessee as Memphis Sands. Mississippi officials said they became concerned after a 2002 report from the state of Tennessee noted that pumping by Memphis could deplete Mississippi supplies.

Mississippi officials say that has now happened because the Memphis usage has created a depression in the water table that is sucking the water beneath Mississippi northward into Tennessee.

Attorneys for MLGW argue their wells go straight down and are not slanted to pull water from Mississippi.

DeSoto County filed its own lawsuit in federal court in 2005 against Memphis and MLGW, based on the same grounds as those put forth by the state.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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