Water, Water Everywhere... Secret Water Pact Makes the Papers

Charles Davis
February 20, 2008 — 1,105 views  
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Look for more of this sort of thing as water becomes more precious:

Officials from Alabama, Florida and Georgia signed a confidentiality agreement in January that includes two private utilities and prohibits the parties from disclosing to the public details of the ongoing negotiations over water rights in the region.

A Florida seafood industry group says the secrecy deal, which also includes the federal government, is illegal and is asking the state's open government commission to throw it out.

"It just fuels suspicion on the part of people down here whose livelihoods depend on this," Kevin Begos, executive director of the Franklin County Oyster & Seafood Task Force, said Tuesday. "We just feel that we have no real say in what's going on and we're not getting any solid information about what's being discussed."

The task force obtained a copy of the agreement through an open records request after state and federal officials provided few details on the status of negotiations last week.

Sarah Williams, spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, said the agreement was intended to allow for open negotiations even as the states face off in a series of related court battles.

"The confidentiality agreement was there to ensure we can have open and fair discussions without compromising ongoing litigation," she said. "When we have more details, when we have a proposal, it will be put forth to the public."

Charles Davis

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Charles N. Davis is an associate professor at the Missouri School of Journalism and the executive director for the National Freedom of Information Coalition, headquartered at the School. Davis' scholarly research focuses on access to governmental information and new media law, including jurisdictional issues, intellectual property and online libel. He has earned a Sunshine Award from the Society of Professional Journalists for his work in furthering freedom of information and the University of Missouri-Columbia Provost's Award for Outstanding Junior Faculty Teaching, as well as the Faculty-Alumni Award.