ON THE WATERFRONT
A few weeks ago, while Senator Johnny Isakson was tossing the same old red herrings to receptive audiences across northern Georgia, negotiations on water allocations from river basins originating in Georgia and continuing into Alabama and Florida were breaking down. The endangered species were not represented at the U.S. Dept. of Interior (DOI)-mediated negotiations, but the Southern Company, a “power”-ful recipient of Lake Lanier releases was there, along with the 3 states. These negotiators worked out a short-term allocation program that was implemented in November 2007 and is set to expire on June 1st, 2008. They then pledged, but ultimately did not produce, a long-term resolution by February 15th, 2008 (extended by hopeful DOI to Mar. 1st).
We, the tax-paying, electric power-consuming public, likely will never know what happened to tank the talks that DOI believed were on the cusp of ending this 18-year conundrum, because all parties involved have signed confidentiality agreements. Our 9th Representative Nathan Deal commended Governor Perdue for his “leadership and steadfast determination not to sacrifice Lake Lanier for downstream special interests.” We trust that he was referring to several downstream municipalities and not the environmentalists committed to protecting the natural resources of the area he was elected to represent.
Now, as the adversarial positions are played out in federal courts, DOI’s Army Corps of Engineers is in charge of revising interim operations that will replace the current allocations program and be in force until the official water control plans and manuals are revised. DOI regrets that this will be a solution directed to the 3 states rather than one coming from the states (http://www.doi.gov/news/08).
Statewide Water Plan
Realizing that the Plan’s structure for developing regional water-management strategies — 10 regional planning districts based on political rather than river basin boundaries, each with a 25-member state rather than locally appointed decision-making council — would be unfair to many of his constituents, Representative Charles Jenkins, alone among Chattahoochee-headwaters legislators, voted against the Plan. The Georgia Water Coalition will continue to lobby for river basin based planning while monitoring several water and land use bills, including the controversial proposal for revitalizing Jekyll Island. Please see www.snca.org Environmental Group News for an update on this legislation, some of which will have a positive environmental impact if passed.
STATEWIDE WATER PLAN
In the Jan. 3, 2007, White County News, opinion
cartoonist Powell shows the winner of a circus booth game called
Population Growth Contest receiving a large bag of Problems. The
booth proprietor, who looks like a real ‘operator,’ is
giving the bag to an innocent looking kid named GA, while a guilty
looking adult turns away, leaving the kid to hold the bag.
In the midst of unprecedented growth and a 4-year
drought that worsened last year, it is easy to infer that Georgia’s diminishing
water supply might be the weightiest item in the bag of problems.
In this case, the ‘operator’ could represent the combination
of developers and politicians (some are one and the same) who support
each other in weakening and even evading regulations that protect
our water supply. The kid might be the present and future public
that, for the most part, either has no knowledge of these deals
or has not been informed of their impact. The adult could either
be special interest groups that benefit from these arrangements,
or the Metro North Georgia Water Planning District (MNGWPD), which
is the main factor in our water crisis.
Will Georgia’s newly developed Water Management
Plan, which is meant to resolve water concerns statewide as well
as provide Florida and Alabama (by court order) their fair share
of downstream water, relieve this problem? The Georgia Water Coalition,
which has monitored and critiqued the Plan during its 3+ year development
period believes some improvement is necessary for statewide effectiveness.
The Georgia Water Council has divided the state
into 11 Planning Regions, which in the next 3 years will develop
region-specific management proposals. Contrary to EPD’s initial water-basin
based planning proposal, Planning boundaries are now political,
comprising whole counties and encompassing parts of at least two
river basins. Still, EPD maintains that water resource assessments
and management decisions will be made “in accordance with
the geographical boundaries of watersheds and aquifers.
The MNGWPD remains a statutory entity that can
make water management decisions on its own, while the 10 other
Planning Regions must do so within the framework of the statewide
plan, as approved by the General Assembly. In an attempt to sort
of spread around the ‘opt
out’ privilege provided by law to the 16 Metro counties,
a process is being developed that would allow border counties to ‘opt
out’ into an adjoining Planning Region. Under the “if
you can’t fight ‘em, join ‘em” rule, perhaps
Lumpkin, White, and Habersham counties (the cut-off headwaters
of the Chattahoochee River Basin) should apply to join the adjacent
Metro District – especially White County, which is entirely
in the Chattahoochee Basin. What was the Water Council thinking?
As the legislature considers the Water Management
Plan, water supply protection abuses continue at the local level.
Currently in White County, the LHR Farms multi-county septic waste
facility is in the headlines. This is a classic example of a developer/politician
convenience arrangement. It exists because developers are loath
to pay for sewer lines, and politicians had rather risk creating
health and environmental hazards than telling constituents that
taxes must be raised in order to build expensive sewage treatment
plants. Sewage systems are inevitable in high growth areas such
as Hall County, and even White County, to protect water quantity
and quality (water discharged back into a waterway must be as clean
as that taken in). Yet water lines are routinely run unaccompanied
by sewer lines. Wouldn’t it be logical and fiscally prudent
to run both at the same time even though hook-ups and a treatment
plant may be a few years away?
Environmental Group Online
The Environmental Group is pleased to report that the results
of our ongoing projects, Heritage
Trees and Birds of
Habersham and White Counties, now are available on the SNCA website (www.snca.org).
These can be accessed by clicking on Environment at the sidebar
on SNCA’s home page and then following links (Trees, Birds)
on the Environmental Group’s
The Heritage Tree
information is a summary of historic trees identified and, in some
cases, associated homeplaces as well. Photographs of most historic
trees and structures are included.
The Bird information includes
a comprehensive checklist of all species observed since the study
began in 2003, plus birds reported from our three state parks.
The text contains information on good birding spots as well as
interesting observations during each season of the year. Professional
photographs of several “backyard” birds
The first link listed on our revised home page is
Water. This section contains information on water resources and
usage in our area and the importance of land use decisions in maintaining
these threatened resources. This section also points out the reasons
a statewide water management plan is needed, especially for the
Chattahoochee River Basin.
We hope you will find our “new” web
pages more informative and easier to navigate. We thank webmaster
Marlin Geiger and intermediary Jan Epps for their good work.
Click here to learn more about
the Environmental Group and its programs...