State to change water rules

Article Published in Rome News Tribune 12/12/10

State to change water rules

byDiane Wagner

 

Proposed changes in how water may be transferred from one river basin to another, and the amount of pollutants allowed in Lake Allatoona, are out for public comment.

Joe Cook, executive director of the Coosa River Basin Initiative, said the proposed criteria for evaluating new interbasin transfer requests are good — but the language is flawed.

Instead of saying the Georgia Environmental Protection Division “shall” weigh issues like the impact on downstream communities and habitat, the regulation states the EPD director “should” examine the effects.

“That’s like suggesting your child clean his room before he goes out to play,” Cook said. “Using ‘shall’ would force the EPD to consider the criteria. As the rules are currently written, the EPD could choose not to do so.”

Also, the regulations only apply to new requests. Existing transfers, such as the 10 million gallons a day diverted from Lake Allatoona to metro Atlanta, would not be affected.

Rome City Manager John Bennett said he expects the 18-county Coosa-North Georgia Water Planning Council he chairs to discuss the proposed regulations early next month.

“The difference between ‘shall’ and ‘should’ is worth looking into,” he said. “But it may not matter much right now. The main point is, it’s a step in the right direction for the board to adopt these standards.”

Objections tempered

Local leaders’ hard-line stance against interbasin transfers has softened in the past two years, as counties in the region work together on their part of a statewide water plan.

The reality, Bennett said, is that 108 of the state’s 159 counties straddle two or more basins.

“It’s not as simple everywhere as it is in Rome and Floyd County,” he said. “In some cases it’s not practical to ban them or require the return of the water. But we are concerned about large-volume transfers.”

Sam Freeman, of the Greater Rome Chamber of Commerce, said his board adjusted its policy of supporting interbasin transfers only if the water is treated and returned to the basin of origin.

“We’ve changed it to support ‘with equitable consideration of return,’” he said. “We feel the basin should be compensated for any lost water, any water not returned. We don’t know exactly how that would work right now, but we think it’s a point that needed to be made.”

Freeman said the chamber would include the statement in comments it plans to submit on the proposed regulations.

The EPA will accept written comments through Jan. 10 via e-mail to EPDComments@dnr.state.ga.us or by surface mail to Nap Caldwell, Watershed Protection Branch, 2 Martin Luther King Jr. Dr., Suite 1152 East Tower, Atlanta, Ga. 30334.

Comments should be labeled “Surface Water Withdrawal Rules” to ensure they get to the right staffer.

The Department of Natural Resources Board will consider the submissions at a Jan. 26 public hearing before it votes on the regulations.

Allatoona prey to runoff

The EPD will hold a public hearing on Jan. 27 in Cartersville to explain plans to raise the allowable limits set for nitrogen, phosphorus and chlorophyll a in Lake Allatoona.

The reservoir is on the Etowah River upstream of Rome.

Research indicates the pollutants stem mainly from urbanization — runoff from dense residential and commercial growth in Woodstock, Roswell, Marietta and Canton, according to supporting documentation released along with the hearing notice.

The set standards can no longer be met, the report states, so plans are to reduce them.

The proposed water quality regulations also update classifications of streams in the Coosa and other river basins.

The Cartersville hearing, one of three scheduled around the state, will be from 1 to 3 p.m. on the third floor of Cartersville City Hall, 10 North Public Square.

Written comments, marked “Triennial Review” will be accepted through Feb. 9 via e-mail to EPDComments@dnr.state.ga. us or by surface mail to Elizabeth Booth, Watershed Planning and Monitoring Program, 4220 International Parkway, Suite 101, Atlanta, Ga. 30354.

The DNR board will consider the proposed rule amendment at its March 23 meeting.



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