Drought evaporates in Legislature

11 02 2009

 

AP

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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EVENT: David Pope of non-profit environmental advocacy organization, Southern Environmental Law Center, to speak at Skidaway Rotary

3 02 2009

David Pope of the Southern Environmental Law Center will speak to the Skidaway Rotary Feb. 18 about “Protecting Coastal Treasures.” Pope will discuss the unique and important resources on the Georgia coast, the threats they face, and what SELC is doing to protect those resources. The Southern Environmental Law Center is a non-profit, donor-supported environmental advocacy organization using the power of the law to protect the environment and special places in the South. 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.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

(SAVANNAH, GA) David Pope of the non-profit environmental advocacy organization, the Southern Environmental Law Center, will speak to the Skidaway Rotary February 18 about “Protecting Coastal Treasures.” Pope will discuss the unique and important resources on the Georgia coast, the threats they face, and what SELC is doing to protect those resources. The Southern Environmental Law Center uses the power of the law to protect the environment and special places in the South. 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 a special initiative focused on protecting the Georgia coast with three lawyers working on this effort.

The Director of the Georgia/Alabama office of the Southern Environmental Law Center, Pope oversees the nonprofit environmental advocacy organization’s special initiative focused on protecting the Georgia coast. He also supervises all of SELC’s other work in Georgia and Alabama, including work to protect the public’s interest in our air, water and forests and work to improve our transportation issues and energy efficiency. In addition, he serves on the management committee for the organization and helps sets the priorities for work throughout the South.

He is a former partner at Carr, Tabb & Pope in Atlanta, with 29 years of environmental law practice. He graduated from University of Florida, Phi Beta Kappa, and University of North Carolina Law School.
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,; and Atlanta. Visit SELC online at www.southernenvironment.org





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.  

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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.

Sincerely,

Saxby Chambliss Johnny Isakson

United States Senator United States Senator