2015 Legislative Session
The 2015 Georgia General Assembly session convened Jan. 12. You can keep up-to-date on all votes impacting Georgia's natural resources by signing up for the Georgia Environmental Action Network. This free service notifies you via e-mail any time an important vote is scheduled and allows you to contact your state senator or representative via e-mail.
This service is very important as it informs legislators about what issues motivate voters. Your e-mails DO MAKE A DIFFERENCE! So, sign up and make a difference for the future of the Coosa and Georgia's other rivers.
If you are a hunter or angler, you may also want to sign up to get similar action alerts from the Georgia Wildlife Federation. THE GWF's Camo Coalition has become a powerful voice at the Georgia General Assembly on all issues impacting Georgia's outdoor enthusiasts.
During the legislative session, bills move fast and situations change rapidly as bills are reviewed, passed and amended. You can stay abreast by visiting the Georgia Water Coalition website.
2015 Legislative Preview
At least two water issues are expected to take center stage at the Gold Dome when legislators convene on Jan. 12: buffer protections for Georgia's marshes, wetlands, streams and rivers and protections for the state's groundwater.
MARSH BUFFER PROTECTIONS
Natural protective buffers on coastal marshes and inland waterways will likely share the spotlight, and protections for coastal groundwater that were lost during the 2014 legislative session will also be debated.
In what was lampooned in the media as the Deal Administration’s “Earth Day Surprise,” Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) Director Judd Turner announced on Earth Day that EPD would no longer enforce a state law that requires a 25-foot no-build-zone or “buffer” to protect Georgia’s coastal marshlands from encroachments by developers.
The announcement leaves nearly 400,000 acres of marshlands at risk and sets up a showdown at the Capitol as legislators attempt to refine the state Erosion and Sedimentation Act—the law that protects Georgia’s streams, rivers, wetlands and marshes from unregulated land development.
EPD itself is drafting legislation to address this issue, and the Georgia Water Coalition (GWC), of which CRBI is a member, is working to ensure that the proposed legislation restores protections for Georgia’s marshlands.
Georgia is home to a third of the remaining salt marshes on the country’s east coast. These marshes serve as nurseries for important seafood, protect property from damaging hurricanes, and protect water quality.
buffer protections for wetlands, streams, rivers
A mid-summer court ruling added more intrigue to the controversy over the Erosion and Sedimentation Act. That ruling by a state appeals court determined that the 25-foot natural buffers around water bodies mandated in the Act apply not only to rivers, streams and lakes but also to freshwater wetlands.
EPD quickly announced that it would not abide the court ruling and has appealed the decision. The Georgia Supreme Court began hearing arguments in this case in early January. The court's decision will have bearing on whether this issue is addressed by legislators during the 2015 session.
CRBI supports the appeals court ruling that effectively strengthens protections for Georgia’s waterways. The ruling stems from a case brought by Georgia River Network and American Rivers to stop the construction of an unnecessary dam and reservoir in southwest Georgia.
PROTECTIONS FOR GROUNDWATER
GET AN UP-TO-DATE FACT SHEET ON SB 36 (2-25-15) Meanwhile, the GWC is working to restore protections for groundwater along the Georgia coast that were lost during the 2014 legislative session when Sen. Ross Tolleson, chair of the Senate Natural Resources Committee, refused to hold a hearing on a bill extending the moratorium on the controversial practice of “aquifer storage and recovery” or ASR.
ASR involves pumping surface water or chemically treated water into underground aquifers so that it can be “stored” and “recovered” at a later date. In other states, ASR wells have resulted in the contamination of pristine groundwater. ASR projects have also failed because the “stored” water could not be retrieved in the quantities expected.
The expired moratorium on ASR protected the Floridan aquifer along the Georgia coast.
Sen. Tolleson formed a study committee to examine ASR. That committee met in August and September, though it has made no recommendations thus far.