Lanier: How low will it go?

30 11 2008

By Debbie Gilbert |

Lake Lanier is approaching a historic moment, but it’s not a cause for celebration.On Dec. 26 last year, Lanier hit 1,050.79 feet above sea level, the lowest point since the reservoir was completed in the late 1950s. Normal full pool is 1,071 feet.

With Georgia mired in drought for a third year, Lanier has failed to rebound during 2008 and is now in exactly the same situation as a year ago.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers projected that without significant rain, Lanier will drop below its historic lowest level sometime between Dec. 5 and Dec. 12.

But here’s the difference: After the lake hit 1,050.79 last year, it began to slowly rise again. This time, it’s likely that the water level will continue to drop.

How much lower will it fall? And when, if ever, will the lake get back up to normal?
Even the experts have no idea.

“It’s hard to make predictions,” said Lt. Col. Daren Payne, deputy commander of the corps’ Mobile district, which manages Lake Lanier.

“With this being a prolonged drought, you could be seeing a couple years before the lake gets up to full pool. On the other hand, if we get a deluge next spring like what they had in the Midwest this year, it’s possible it could recover sooner.”

The corps issues a forecast every Tuesday, calculating the expected levels of Lanier for the subsequent four weeks. But Payne said the computer models do not factor in rain, because that’s a variable that cannot be accurately predicted.

In general terms, though, the next three months are expected to bring less rain than usual.

“Our staff weather guy is not seeing a wetter than normal winter,” said Payne.

Even a normal winter would be welcome, according to state climatologist David Stooksbury. “We’ve been dry for so long that people have forgotten what normal (winter) rainfall is like,” he said. “This time of year we should be getting about an inch a week.”

That amount would be helpful, he said, but it’s not going to make up for a 20-foot deficit.

“Even with normal rainfall this winter and spring, I do not see Lanier back to full pool next summer,” he said. “Any rain we get is going to (bring) some improvement in flow. But even with normal rain, we’re just not going to get enough water into the basin to fill up the lake.”

Stooksbury said he is concerned about the long-term outlook, and he wonders whether what’s happening in Georgia is part of an atmospheric shift on a global scale.

Read on here.

Lee County declares war on illegal dumping

30 11 2008

By Jim Wallace | WALB

Lee County code enforcement officers say they have declared war on illegal dumping in one of South Georgia’s fastest growing counties.

They’re working with State Department of Natural Resources Rangers to track down people who dump and throw out trash so they can prosecute them.

Department of Natural Resources Conservation Ranger Randy James is on patrol this Holiday weekend, looking for illegal dumping. He finds a big pile under a bridge on the Leslie Highway.

Ranger Randy James said “They get down in here, dump it off, and take off.”

Leaving behind a real mess for taxpayers to clean up.

James said “Right here we’ve got a little bit of roofing material, a screen, looks like some fencing and a bed. Look out here you’ve got a piece of decking and deer carcuses.”

Not only creating an eyesore, but a real health danger to the area’s environment.

James said “After you get a good 3 or 4 inches of rain, the creek will actually rise and flood out the banks, and pick up all this trash out here and take it downstream.”

James checks another area where they have found lots of illegal dumping, a cul-de-sac off Forrester Parkway. Lee County officials say they are declaring war on dumping. County Code Enforcement is putting out surveillance cameras, to catch dumpers in the act.

 James said “They are out right now. The problem is getting worse. So he is getting more cameras and he will have them out. So anyone going under a bridge thinking no one’s watching, someone will be watching.”

Most of the people they are catching so far are home owners.

 James said “Everyone tells me they are trying to save themselves a little bit of money. And for roughly 2 and a half cents a pound they can take it down to the landfill and avoid a day in court.”

Lee County and state law enforcement promise they will prosecute everyone they catch dumping, as they go high tech, stepping up efforts to stop this environmental crime.

Rangers say Judges are tough on illegal dumpers.

They usually hand out fines and community service that often involves cleaning up trash across the county.

Retail veteran gave new life to Chattahoochee Nature Center

30 11 2008

Ann Bergstrom, an Atlanta native, practically grew up in the woods of the Southeast, she says. Her father was in the U.S. Forest Service and taught her to love the outdoors.

That passion for the natural world continued through her adult life, though she kept it separate from her career for decades. Monday through Friday, she worked in retail marketing, including 25 years at Rich’s and Federated department stores. She and her husband spent their weekends canoeing and camping.

Then, in December 1999, she took on what she considers the hardest challenge of her life. She became director of the Chattahoochee Nature Center, which was struggling and in danger of shutting down, she said.

She has been able to stabilize the financial health of the nonprofit and raise nearly $10 million for a new facility that is under construction. The 10,000-square-foot Discovery Center, scheduled to open in June, will focus on education about the Chattahoochee River. It will house interactive exhibits, a high-definition theater and a rooftop garden terrace for community activities.


Q: Why did you take this job when you knew the center was struggling?


A: It was a call to the heart. I gave it a lot of thought. I came down here and walked the trails. I went in and out of the place a number of times anonymously without anyone knowing who I was. I could see visibly that the center was needy in a lot of ways. I thought about it, prayed about it. … I am the only director who has stayed more than five years in the center’s 32 years of existence. It is a very difficult challenge and has been since the initial launching of the center.


Q: Why is it such a difficult challenge?


A: It is an environmental nonprofit. Put that at the top of the list. There are almost no environmental nonprofits in the state of Georgia. There is no critical mass for the work we do. There is no official structure in state or local government to work with and support nonprofits that work in the environmental field, or, for that matter, in the science field.

Education is sort of the overlooked part of the environmental continuum. I think the general public thinks environmental education is taught in schools and it is something we should all just sort of understand and know, that the real issues that deserve support in the environmental arena are the crises — saving a piece of land that is going to be lost to development or saving a habitat in which animals are in danger. Those are compelling causes that attract people. Education is not sexy.

A little bit of that is changing now, however, with the awareness that we are going to have to face the issue of global warming and climate change. … At the same time, the pressure of the community on the Chattahoochee Nature Center to deliver environmental education was enormous. The people kept coming, they kept coming, they kept coming. More than 100,000 people a year come to the center.

Read on here.

State parks won’t close; some lodges may privatize

25 11 2008

Georgia’s state parks are safe from the budget ax — for now.

Gov. Sonny Perdue discussed the revised budget cuts for the Department of Natural Resources on Tuesday morning with Commissioner Noel Holcomb and his likely successor, current Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority Executive Director Chris Clark. Instead of closing up to six of the state’s 48 state parks, they decided to cut deeper elsewhere, further slashing funds for routine maintenance and equipment replacements.  Still on the table is closing up to five historic sites, two fewer than originally proposed earlier this fall. The exact locations have not yet been determined, and the sites could remain open with reduced hours.

The state is also considering privatizing all its golf courses and several lodges, at George T. Bagby State Park, Georgia Veterans State Park and Smithgall Woods Conservation Area.

DNR spokeswoman Beth Brown said public feedback made a difference, motivating the change to the proposed cuts that could take effect starting early next year.

But, she said, it’s a tradeoff. “There are repairs and maintenance that need to be done that will be delayed,” Brown said. “We have trucks with 250,00 to 300,000 miles that we can’t replace, and that are critical for us to do the job that we do.”

With state revenues faltering, Perdue and top legislators are trying make up a revenue shortfall of $1.6 billion to $1.8 billion.

EnergyStar Certifies Northeast Georgia Home Builder

25 11 2008


Gainesville, GA, Mountain View Home Builders, of Gainesville, Georgia, recently qualified as a green home builder under the Department Of Energy’s Environmental Protection Agency Energy Star program. Energy Star homes use up to 50% less energy to maintain than conventional homes. To date, they have built four homes that qualify for the EnergyStar label and plan to make all their future homes EnergyStar qualified. The company is also certified under several other green building programs including Jackson EMC “Right Choice”, Georgia Power EnergyStar, and the U.S. Dept. of Energy “Builders Challenge Program”. Mountain View Home Builders is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council. During 2009, the company plans to be certified under the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) program. The LEED green building rating system provides standards for environmentally sustainable construction. Also during 2009, the company plans to become a certified builder under the EarthCraft House program of the Atlanta Home Builders Association. The EarthCraft House program is recognized nationally as the leading residential green building program. For more information on how Mountain View Home Builders is pioneering green building in the Northeast Georgia area, visit their website at… phone: 770-654-3435 or e-mail at

Also visit these other websites to learn more about the Green Building Programs mentioned above.

EarthCraft House-
U.S. Green Building Council-
LEED Program-
Right Choice-
Georgia Power Energy Star-
Builders Challenge-

Environmental fund-raiser scores former ‘SNL’ comic

25 11 2008

This Thanksgiving week, Captain Planet Foundation chairwoman Laura Turner Seydel is thankful for the Coca-Cola Co., Georgia Power Co., the Mother Nature Network, Pratt Industries and timing.

The above companies signed up early as presenting sponsors for this year’s 14th annual Xmas Party, the annual benefit for the Captain Planet Foundation set for Dec. 12 at the Tabernacle in downtown Atlanta.

“With the economy the way it is, we’re extremely lucky that we had our presenting sponsors come on board early,” Turner Seydel told Buzz on Monday.

Still, the environmental charity has done some budgetary trimming for this year’s event, eliminating the white tent in the parking lot and consolidating the festivities inside.

Musical guests include Rolling Stones keyboardist and Georgia tree farmer Chuck Leavell, Night Ranger singer Jack Blade, .38 Special’s Jeff Carlisi and the Romantics’ Wally Palmar.

The evening’s special celebrity guest is “Saturday Night Live” legend Chevy Chase and his environmentalist wife, Jayni. So how did Turner Seydel lure the comic actor to Atlanta?

Call it return payment for a pair of borrowed golf shorts.

It seems that some years back, Turner Seydel’s husband, Atlanta lawyer Rutherford Seydel, was playing golf with the comic and Chase arrived sans shorts. He borrowed a pair of Rutherford’s and decided he liked them.

“It’s been a running joke between us for a while,” explained Turner Seydel. “We’re thrilled to have Chevy and Jayni this year.” Jayni, incidentally, is the founder of the Center for Environmental Education, a nonprofit devoted to the greening of public schools. Best-selling author (and the chairwoman’s father) Ted Turner has also R.S.V.P.-ed.

As usual, Turner Seydel’s dress for the occasion is an eco-friendly frock, this year made out of sustainable silk, courtesy of a “free-range silk worm that was allowed to turn into a moth.”

So, no silk worms were harmed in the making of the dress, we inquired?

Cracked Turner: “Um, you could say that!”

For tickets:

Agreement will help preserve Northwest Georgia forests

25 11 2008

Calhoun Times

Georgia ForestWatch, Southern Environmental Law Center and the U.S. Forest Service plus other concerned groups and citizens concluded an intensive, three-year public review process in August culminating in agreement in principle regarding a timber management project on the Chattahoochee National forest in Northwest Georgia over the next five to eight years.“All sides put a lot of effort into this process and had to ‘give a little’ to reach agreement,” said Wayne Jenkins, executive director, Georgia ForestWatch. “We support good, collaborative forestry and most of this project sounds like good forestry.”

“We would like to see the Forest Service pursue more of this type of collaborative restoration work on other national forests in the Southern Appalachian mountains,” said Sarah Francisco, an attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center.

The bulk of the 6,200-acre timber project entails thinning pine plantations that have no place in the mountains of Southern Appalachia – a key factor in gaining agreement of the non-profit forest conservation organizations.

This type of thinning is necessary, Jenkins said, to help prevent Southern Pine Beetle infestations on the thousands of acres of overcrowded pine stands on the Chattahoochee. And in time, with appropriate forestry, such stands will mature to a more natural native forest of mixed hardwood and pine species.

“If the Forest Service does this project correctly – and we will be monitoring them closely on this – this could be a win-win scenario for the national forests in Georgia and the citizens who own them,” Jenkins said.