Lessons From Australia: Drought Can Help Georgia Economy

3 02 2009


David Beasley | Global Atlanta

Paul Dalby traveled to Atlanta from Australia with stories of a drought so severe that rivers stop flowing, lakes turn toxic and farmers abandon their land in frustration.

Dr. Dalby’s  message, delivered as metro Atlanta struggles to map strategies for coping with severe water shortages, focused on his country’s past and America’s future.

“Australia is where America could be in a few years,” said Dr. Dalby, a consultant with an Australian-funded institute, the International Center of  Excellence in Water Resource Management.

Yet he offered hope for Atlanta. Droughts might be drastic. However, Australia’s experience proves that less water can spark innovation, new companies and products and even more profit for some farmers, said Dr. Dalby.

In a recent interview at the Australian Consulate General in Atlanta, Dr. Dalby told the story of the Murray River and what happened when Australia drained too much water out of it for human consumption. It is a story that may resonate in metro Atlanta, where the waters of the Chattahoochee River are at the center of a long-ranging federal court fight between Georgia, Alabama and Florida, involving an array of competing business, government and environmental interests.  

Continue Reading Here.


Georgia growers sharing conservation ideas

2 12 2008

By Sharon Dowdy | Southeast Farm Press

Vann and Tabatha Wooten work hard to grow crops in environmentally friendly ways that conserve the resources on their farm in Hazelhurst, Ga. They are part of a program to help other farmers do the same.

ON TOP Farms near Hazelhurst, Ga., Vann and Tabatha Wooten use environmentally-friendly practices whenever possible. Now, with the help of the Partnership for a Sustainable Georgia — Ag track program, they plan to share what they are doing by offering tours of their farm. (Photo: Courtesy Adam Speir)

Partnership for a Sustainable Georgia — Ag Track works with growers like the Wootens to promote agricultural efficiency, said Adam Speir, a University of Georgia Cooperative Extension ag pollution specialist.

“The program promotes the good work of Georgia farmers and producers who are using good environmental practices on their operations,” said Speir, who coordinates the program through the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

The free, volunteer program is administered by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

“To date, more than 160 businesses, towns, colleges and state agencies have reduced waste, water and energy usage by participating in the program,” Speir said.

DNR’s Pollution Prevention Assistance Division also helps participating partners improve recycling and find uses for by-products, he said.

The program has four levels: Champion, bronze, silver and gold. The entry level for each participant is based on their current conservation efforts and those slated for completion in the program.

The Wootens are at the silver level, which means that they are operating under a conservation plan.

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.

Plan for sonar range off Georgia/Florida in dispute as endangering whales

17 11 2008


By Steve Patterson | The Times-Union

A Navy plan to build a training range for sonar exercises off Jacksonville’s coast is worrying Florida and Georgia environmental agencies.  Officials in both states have told the Navy that ship traffic from the training range could harm endangered right whales, which spend the winter offshore raising their young.

“The waters offshore of Georgia and northeast Florida are the only known calving ground for the species. Protection of the right whale calving habitat is critical for population recovery,” Georgia Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Noel Holcomb wrote in a response to a draft Navy report on the project.

Today is the start of the whales’ calving season, which lasts until April 15. There are about 350 remaining right whales.

Training less during calving season is the best way to avoid harming them, said recommendations from Holcomb’s agency and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Federal rules protecting right whales treat the area close to Jacksonville’s shoreline as “critical habitat” for the giant mammals. The training range would be about 50 miles offshore, outside that critical zone.

But agencies in both states argued that whales are found throughout the area, not just near the beach. One whale fitted with an electronic monitor in 2005 traveled 73 miles east of shore, the Conservation Commission noted.

The Navy named Jacksonville in September as its top choice for a training site, after weighing four Atlantic coast locations. Ships, submarines, planes and helicopters would train there for anti-submarine warfare.

The 500-square-mile range would be fitted with underwater sensors to track vessels’ movements. That’s supposed to help trainers critique the crews’ performance quickly so they learn more from each exercise. Without such a system, training critiques are sometimes filed weeks later, after reviewers piece together data recorded on each vessel.

Read on here.

Georgia court sides with marina developer

17 11 2008



ATLANTA, Nov. 17  — The Georgia Supreme Court ruled Monday in favor of a developer who wants to build the state’s largest marina complex on the Gulf Coast.


The 5-2 decision found that the Coastal Marshlands Protection Committee, which issues permits for marinas, does not have the authority to regulate development on the adjacent mainland, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

The proposed marina would be near the Cumberland Island National Seashore. The developer is Land Resource LLC.

State law does not show “any intent on the part of the General Assembly to establish the committee as the ‘super regulator’ of any and all development in the coastal areas of the state,” Justice P. Harris Hines wrote for the court’s majority.

Environmental groups, including the Center for a Sustainable Coast and the Southern Environmental Law Center, are opposed to the project. They said the Coastal Marshlands Protection Act gave the state the responsibility to protect the tidal marshes from damaging storm water runoff created by developing the adjacent land.

Land Resource received the state permit to build the marinas and docks in 2005, but because of the legal challenges, the work has not been done.

To read the opinion, click here.

Landfill cleanup options studied

11 11 2008


By Rob Pavey| Augusta Chronicle

Columbia County is exploring cleanup options to stem the flow of contaminated groundwater migrating from its aging Baker Place landfill near Grovetown.  When the landfill opened in 1982, its first two 30-acre waste burial cells did not have protective liners because laws requiring them were not adopted until 1990 and did not take effect until 1993.

Consequently, groundwater flowing beneath those areas has become contaminated with methane — “landfill gas” — and various materials contained in liquid leachate that settles to the bottom of landfill garbage as it decomposes.

“What we will be doing is addressing contamination that’s been discovered at that facility from that unlined portion of the landfill,” said Don Bartles, the county’s solid waste manager.

A later waste cell, which opened in the mid-1990s and closed in 2006 after it was filled, includes a protective liner and a leachate collection system.

A network of monitoring wells indicates a small plume of contamination that has moved southwest, off the landfill property, and onto a portion of Interstate 20. The affected area is about 56 feet below the water table.

Cleanup options include groundwater extraction, in which wells are drilled into the contaminated area.

Water pumped out would be discharged into the newer, lined portion of the landfill, which has a liquid recovery system.

That water is confined in a storage tank, then pumped to a county wastewater plant for final processing into clean water.

Pumping from the affected portion of the aquifer slows or halts the spread of the contamination, Mr. Bartles said.

Any cleanup plan must also be approved by the county’s Public Works Committee and Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division.

The county also is required to monitor the area for 30 years after the landfill is closed.

The unlined cells were closed in 1991 and 1995, respectively, and capped with a protective layer of dirt. The county’s last cell, a 15-acre lined site, was closed in 2006.

The county will finance any necessary cleanup with a reserve fund accumulated over the years by proceeds of the small per-ton surcharge on waste buried at Baker Place. The county also can apply for funds from a state-managed trust fund created for landfill remediation.

The county’s reserve fund had about $15 million when the landfill closed in 2006, Mr. Bartles said. About $3.5 million will have been spent by December in closure and capping activities, and the 30-year monitoring program is expected to cost $6 million to $7 million.

Remediation for the two unlined landfill cells has cost about $150,000 so far, and additional measures, Mr. Bartles estimated, would be in the $30,000 to $50,000 range

Nonprofit group bringing its environmental advocacy to Savannah

31 10 2008


Marjorie Young | The Creative Coast

The Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) has launched a special initiative focusing on the Georgia coast, says David Pope, Director of the Georgia/Alabama office of the SELC. The nonprofit SELC is the South’s largest environmental advocacy organization, using the power of the law to protect the environment and health in the Southeast. SELC’s Georgia Coastal Initiative brings the organization’s long-standing reputation and expertise to local environmental efforts. With three attorneys on the project, SELC will provide its legal services without charge to other environmental organizations and partner groups. http://www.SouthernEnvironment.org

Media contact: David Pope, (404) 521-9900

(SAVANNAH) – The Southern Environmental Law Center, the largest, nonprofit environmental advocacy organization dedicated solely to protecting the South’s environment, has launched an initiative focusing on the Georgia coast, including Savannah and the surrounding coastal region. For some time, the Georgia coast, home to some of the most beautiful and vast marshlands, has been under increasing development pressure threatening its special landscape and ecosystems.

“We believe the Georgia coast and certainly the Savannah area are special places that deserve special attention and protection,” says David Pope, Director of the Georgia/Alabama office of SELC. “The Georgia coast is a place with a unique ecology. Georgia marshes are famous worldwide attracting tourists, fishermen and Georgia residents alike.”

SELC, founded 22 years ago, uses the full power of the law to preserve and protect the health and environment of the Southeast, including shaping, enacting and enforcing laws and policies, strengthening relationships with legislators and policy-makers, and partnering with other environmental organizations.

Pope adds, “We are not anti-development. We appreciate the need for responsible growth and economic prosperity. But, our job is to protect the public’s interest in the public’s resources and we will challenge those projects that do not meet the requirements of the law and may damage this special place.”

SELC works collaboratively with more than 100 partner groups who depend on the group’s expertise, regional perspective, and legal strategy to complement and strengthen their efforts. SELC’s consistent track record has earned it a reputation as one of the most effective non-profits in the nation. SELC, which is donor-funded by foundations, families and individuals, provides its services at no cost to its partner environmental groups. There are three attorneys based in the Georgia-Alabama office, headquartered in Atlanta, who are focused on Georgia coastal issues.

Pope adds, “the Southeast, already the fastest sprawling region in the U.S., faces unprecedented pressures from explosive population growth and development trends. Georgia’s coastal marshes and hammocks are very vulnerable in the next 10-20 years given the intense population growth expected in the area. If special attention is not given to the Georgia coast, we could lose one of the South’s most precious resources.”

In addition to beauty and recreations, the Georgia coast’s wetlands provide a cleansing sponge for stormwater runoff, he explained, and the marsh estuary is one of the most unique and productive areas in the U.S. Improperly placed development will cause serious damage to the marsh and the entire ecology.

About the Southern Environmental Law Center
SELC is a nonprofit donor supported environmental advocacy organization using the power of the law to protect the environment and health in the Southeast. Since 1986, SELC has informed, implemented and enforced environmental law and policy concerning clean air and water, mountain forests, the coast and wetlands, and rural lands and livable communities. Working to defend the public’s interest and never for private gain, SELC provides its legal services without charge to other environmental organizations and partner groups. SELC has 63 staff members and offices in Charlottesville and Richmond, Virginia; Chapel Hill and Asheville, North Carolina; Charleston, South Carolina, Washington, DC, Sewanee, Tennessee; and Atlanta. Visit SELC online here.