Drought evaporates in Legislature

11 02 2009



A year ago, legislators couldn’t wait to show the public they were tackling Georgia’s epic drought. One of their first votes was to embrace a statewide water plan. And powerful lawmakers soon backed a quixotic bid to claim water from the Tennessee River. The drought still grips parts of north Georgia, and Lake Lanier — Atlanta’s main water supply — is still around 14 feet under normal level. But the environmental groups fear debate over drought has all but evaporated in the Georgia Legislature. “Water’s definitely not as high profile as it was last year,” said Jill Johnson of Georgia Conservation Voters, an environmental lobby. “But the drought hasn’t gone away, and Georgians are still concerned about their water supply.” It’s not for lack of trying. At least a half dozen proposals have been introduced by lawmakers from both parties that would spur conservation and crack down on pollution. But chamber leaders have not publicly made any of them a priority. Instead, they have said they will deliberate each proposal on an individual basis. And Carol Couch, the state’s top environmental official, said her office is focused on a statewide water management plan to help set Georgia’s water policy for decades to come. “While drought is not making news like it was a year ago, drought management remains an issue and we need to manage water use for the greatest conservation savings,” said Couch, the director of the state Environmental Protection Division. Meanwhile, there’s a growing number of lower-profile measures percolating in the Legislature. State Rep. Richard Smith proposed new rules that would make it more difficult for local governments to add septic systems, which don’t return water into the sewage system.

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Local forester supports Amendment 1

20 10 2008


Editorial – Alan D. McAllister | Tifton Gazette

Amendment 1 is one of the most important forestland conservation measures ever taken up by the Georgia General Assembly. It is truly a conservation bill since conservation of natural resources has come to mean “wise use and management.” Gifford Pinchot, the father of American forestry, described it as meaning “the greatest good for the greatest number over the longest time.” On forest lands this means growing and managing timber crops so as to obtain the maximum yields of timber, wildlife, watershed protection and other values without destruction of the forest or its soil.

Georgia is currently blessed with 24 million acres of forests — forests that provide jobs, enhance our environment and make Georgia a beautiful place to live. Fortunately, these forests are renewable so that its continuous replanting guarantees that new forests are born all the time. But maintaining abundant forests is not without its challenges.

Today, Georgia’s forests are threatened by more than just southern pine beetles, destructive wildfires and urban sprawl. A major culprit is rapidly escalating property taxes that are making it more difficult to keep land in forests. When forests disappear, so do the industries and jobs they create and the numerous environmental benefits they deliver free of charge — clean water, pure air and wildlife habitat, to name a few.

Our forests are truly the economic lifeblood of many Georgia communities and greatly contribute to the social fabric of these areas. A Georgia Tech study conducted each year reveals the economies of 1/3 of Georgia counties significantly rely on forests and forest product companies. In fact, forestry contributes $25 billion each year to the state’s economy.

To those that say this amendment will cost local taxpayers, I say that this is just not true. Amendment 1 creates a Constitutional mandate to reimburse revenue losses to counties whose digest is impacted by the Georgia Forest Land Protection Act of 2008. This act will help keep the forest industry strong, therefore benefiting all Georgians with the billions contributed to the state’s economy, not to mention the environmental benefits that go along with healthy forests.

The broad coalition of organizations endorsing Amendment 1 includes: Georgia Forestry Association, Georgia Agribusiness Council, The Georgia Conservancy, Georgia Conservation Voters, Georgia Farm Bureau, Georgia Wildlife Federation, Georgia Chamber of Commerce, Sierra Club – Georgia Chapter, The Nature Conservancy, Heritage and Wildlife Conservation Council, Georgia Hunting and Fishing Federation and Quality Deer Management Association.

In addition, the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia are not opposing Amendment 1 since they were instrumental in creating the mandate to reimburse revenue losses in those counties that may be impacted by this legislation.

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Georgia senators: Obama doesn’t understand tri-state water issues

20 10 2008

Submitted by the offices of Sens. Isakson and Chambliss

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., sent a letter to Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., expressing their disappointment with comments he made on Oct. 16 regarding water allocation issues in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint and Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa river basins.

The text of the letter is below:

Dear Senator Obama:

We are writing to express our disappointment with comments made yesterday by you and your campaign relating to water allocation issues in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (ACF) and Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa (ACT) River basins. As you may know, these river basins serve Georgia, Alabama, and Florida. While we appreciate your recent and sudden interest in the tri-state water issues we have been working on for the past six years, the comments by you and your campaign reflect a fundamental lack of understanding of the nature of the problems in the ACF and ACT basins, a lack of understanding of the requirements of the Army Corps of Engineers with regards to the ACF and ACT basins under federal law, and a cavalier disregard for the needs of the residents of Georgia.

According to your campaign’s statement, you “would direct the National Research Council (NRC) to conduct a study to assess the water availability, supply options, and demand-management alternatives that factor into ACF River System usage, as well as the impact of freshwater flow on the ecology of the Apalachicola River and Bay.” You also said “As President, I will make protecting Florida’s water resources a priority.”

As you may know, the Army Corps of Engineers is required under federal law to update the water control manuals for the ACF and ACT basins, and recently announced it would begin doing so in the ACT basin. We were pleased to hear from Secretary of the Army Pete Geren personally that the Corps is moving forward with updating these manuals, because it will allow the Corps to make smarter decisions in their management of these river systems. We have underscored to him how important this action is. As you also may know such an update would include studies to assess water supply and demand, and environmental management practices for ALL the users and stakeholder in the basins, not just those on the Apalachicola River and Bay. To ask the Corps to ignore its responsibilities under federal law in favor of the residents of Florida is a clear affront to the residents of Georgia. To state that you will make protecting Florida’s water resources a priority over Georgia’s shows that you do not care about the needs of the people of Georgia.

We have continually worked to get Georgia, Florida and Alabama together and to force the Corp of Engineers to update a 20-year-old Water Control Plan for the Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa and Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basins. In 2006 we held Senate hearings in Gainesville and Columbus to implore the Corps to keep its commitment to update its outdated water control plan for the two river basins.

On August 1, 2007, we met with Secretary Geren as well as Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works John Paul Woodley, Lieutenant General Robert L. Van Antwerp and General Counsel Craig Schmauder. At the meeting, Secretary Geren indicated his desire to give mediation time to work before starting the update of the water control manuals.

When Secretary Geren gave his commitment to us that if and when mediation broke down and was not making progress, he would begin the update of the water control manuals, we held him to that promise. On September 28, 2007, after judges involved in the mediation announced that the talks had broken down, we sent a letter to Secretary Geren strongly urging him to honor his pledge to update the water control plan.

On October 18, 2007, Secretary Woodley told both of us by telephone that the Corps will start the process for updating the water control manual for the Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa River Basin.

We also facilitated meetings in Washington between the Governors of Georgia, Alabama, and Florida, as well as meetings between the Governors and the Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne, and Council on Environmental Quality Chairman Jim Connaughton. We continue to work with the Governors and their staffs to come to a solution so the states can take advantage of the productive talks they have had and agree on a resolution.

From Lake Lanier to Lake Allatoona, from Atlanta to West Point Lake, and from LaGrange to Columbus, we have worked to find a solution that benefits not only the people of our state, but all those who reside in the river basins. It is unfortunate that you wish to undo the good work we have done to find a solution for all the people in the river basin and instead prioritize the needs of only the people of Florida.


Saxby Chambliss Johnny Isakson

United States Senator United States Senator

Polar Bear Listed as “Threatened” Species

8 08 2008

The United States Department of Interior listed the polar bear as a “threatened” species under the federal Endangered Species Act. While such a listing would typically create review requirements only for projects in Alaska, in this case the listing was made to address the impacts of global warming. At least theoretically, any “major federal action” in the US needed to approve a new source of greenhouse gas emissions would have to conduct an ESA review to determine the impact on polar bears prior to receiving approval. To protect against this result, the Secretary of DOI announced:


To make sure that the Endangered Species Act is not misused to regulate global climate change, I will take the following specific actions:


First, to provide clarity and certainty to those regulated under the Endangered Species Act, the Fish and Wildlife Service will propose what is known as a 4(d) rule that states that if an activity is permissible under the stricter standards imposed by the Marine Mammal Protection Act, it is also permissible under the Endangered Species Act with respect to the polar bear. This rule, effective immediately, will ensure the protection of the bear while allowing us to continue to develop our natural resources in the arctic region in an environmentally sound way.


Second, Director Hall will issue guidance to Fish and Wildlife Service staff that the best scientific data available today cannot make a causal connection between harm to listed species or their habitats and greenhouse gas emissions from a specific facility, or resource development project, or government action.


Third, the Department will issue a Solicitor’s Opinion further clarifying these points.

Fourth, the ESA regulatory language needs to be clarified. We will propose common sense modifications to the existing regulation to provide greater certainty that this listing will not set backdoor climate policy outside our normal system of political accountability.


Georgia Lawmakers Support Off-Shore Drilling for Oil

1 08 2008

Georgia lawmakers largely support President Bush’s call to lift a long-standing ban on offshoreoil drilling, including off the state’s coast.  All nine of Georgia’s Republican congressmen, including both senators, back the proposal. Three of six Democrats also support it, along with Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue.

The new push for drilling is a response to increasingly urgent complaints from constituents about $4-a-gallon gasoline.

Many experts, including Energy Department forecasters, predict that offshore supplies would amount to a drop in the global bucket and would have little effect on gas prices. But drilling supporters say no one really knows how much oil is out there and that Congress can no longer ignore it.

Read more here.