Georgia poised to regulate water transfers

Article published in Atlanta Business Chronicle 01/26/11

Georgia poised to regulate water transfers

 

Atlanta Business Chronicle - by Dave Williams , Staff Writer

Date: Wednesday, January 26, 2011, 11:56am EST - Last Modified: Wednesday, January 26, 2011, 4:32pm EST

Water suppliers will need a permit from the state to pipe water from one river basin into another under regulations approved Wednesday by Georgia’s environmental policy-making board.

The Board of Natural Resources voted unanimously to require permits for new interbasin transfers, a key option in the state’s quest for additional water supplies.

The new regulations track provisions in the statewide water management plan approved by the General Assembly three years ago. However, the water plan is nonbinding.

Establishing criteria for approval of interbasin transfers by the state Environmental Protection gives the process some legal standing while stopping short of incorporating it into state law.

“We’ve given the flexibility to EPD to make sure we continue to have a healthy business climate in Georgia,” state Sen. Ross Tolleson, R-Perry, chairman of the Senate Natural Resources and Environment Committee, told board members before the vote.

But representatives of environmental groups objected to provisions in the regulations that require permits only for new interbasin transfers and not those that already exist.

Opponents also called on the board to change language in the regulations stating that the EPD director “should” consider the various criteria governing approval of interbasin transfers to a requirement that the director “shall” take those criteria into account when considering permit applications.

“When you use the word ‘should’ … you’re going to give permission to EPD to pick and choose,” said Kevin McGrath of Georgia Trout Unlimited. “We think you should ensure that the people of Georgia have thoughtful consideration of these interbasin transfers.”

But supporters said such a strict interpretation of the regulations could inhibit pursuit of what has become a necessary water-supply option in a state with more than 100 counties lying within two or more river basins.

“Metro Atlanta couldn’t exist without interbasin transfers,” said Jack Dozier, executive director of the Georgia Association of Water Professionals.

“If we make it difficult or impossible to do interbasin transfers, we may be prohibiting parts of the state from economic development.”



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