State’s wish for stronger water rules is ignored

Article Published in the Anniston Star 02/11/2011

State’s wish for stronger water rules is ignored

by Jason Bacaj
Star Staff Writer

Feb 11, 2011 


A letter from Alabama criticizing a proposed water management rule didn’t reach Georgia Department of Natural Resources board members before they voted to pass the measure.

But it wasn’t the post office that lost the letter from Alabama’s Department of Environmental Management and Department of Economic and Community Affairs.

It was Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division that ignored the letter and listed it — along with a letter from U.S. Fish and Wildlife — as one of “approximately 1,000 written comments” on the rules in a memo to board members.

“We had surmised they didn’t respond to it,” said Larry Childers, ADECA communications director. “We’re disappointed.”

The new rule says Georgia’s EPD “should consider” the economic and environmental effects of an interbasin transfer before issuing a permit to move water between lakes or rivers.

Both ADEM and Fish and Wildlife letters wanted the word “should” changed to “shall.”

“The current proposal does nothing more than pay lip service to serious consideration of the potential impacts of IBTs,” Alabama’s letter said.

New reservoirs that involve interbasin transfers have fewer obstacles to overcome under the rule, said Joe Cook, executive director for the Coosa River Basin Initiative. It also limits the legal courses affected communities can take. That includes Anniston, if the proposed Dawson Forest Reservoir in the Upper Etowah gets built.

Gov. Robert Bentley has moved to renew talks to end the 20-year water war between Alabama, Georgia and Florida — on the condition that Georgia doesn’t start work on new reservoirs.

Ignoring Alabama’s objections and passing this new rule doesn’t appear to be anything more than political posturing, said James Seroka, Auburn University political science professor. All three states involved in the water war have to agree on water management policy after the 2009 federal court ruling, he said.

All that passing this rule does is make headlines and make officials look like heroes standing up for the Georgia public, Seroka said.

“But in reality, they just complicated the matter and probably created ill will,” Seroka said.

Star staff writer Jason Bacaj: 256-235-3546.

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