Georgia Delegation Introduces Legislation to Alleviate Water Crisis
Oct 18, 2007 -
Members of Georgia’s congressional delegation have introduced legislation in the U.S. Senate and U.S. House to alleviate the current water crisis by allowing states suffering from droughts to be exempt temporarily from the Endangered Species Act, which in Georgia is threatening our low water supply by taking away large amounts of water from north Georgia and sending it downstream to protect mussels and sturgeon in Florida.
Specifically, the legislation would amend the Endangered Species Act of 1973 to allow a state to be exempt from the Act when the Secretary of the Army or a Governor declares that drought conditions are threatening the health, safety and welfare of residents in a region served by a river basin managed by the federal government. U.S. Senators Johnny Isakson, R-Ga. and Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., have introduced the legislation in the Senate and members of Georgia’s delegation introduced the legislation in the House.
Congressman David Scott, D, (GA-13) said, “This drought impacting Georgia is a crisis of the highest magnitude and we must act immediately. The Georgia delegation agrees that we must take important legislative steps to help Georgians maintain adequate supplies of drinking water.”
Sen. Isakson, R, said, “There is a critical shortage of Georgia’s water resources, and it is time we gave the Army Corps the latitude and the governors of each state the authority to protect our people. I will continue to work with all my colleagues in the Georgia delegation to see that the threat to our Georgia lakes is stopped.”
Sen. Chambliss, R, said, “We’ve got to have some common sense here. We have varying needs throughout our river basins, and striking the right balance requires the cooperation of many different stakeholders. However, in times like these, when the health and safety of our human population is threatened and we have exhausted all means to find a solution, it is a logical conclusion that the provisions of the Endangered Species Act should be temporarily suspended so that a short term fix can be provided.”
Congressman Sanford Bishop, D, (GA-02) said, “When the health, safety, and welfare of more than 4 million people in Georgia are threatened by a lack of water, it is imperative that we take whatever steps are necessary to protect human life and the Georgia economy - including a temporary waiver of the Endangererd Species Act.”
Congressman Nathan Deal, R, (GA-09) said, “I have long supported common sense wildlife conservation and animal protection, but a key factor of that common sense is an operational principle that the health and livelihood of millions of human beings should not be outweighed by endangered mussels.”
Congressman John Linder, R, (GA-07) said, “Georgia has reached a critical point with regards to water availability. In fact, I read this morning that the city of Lawrenceville in my home county of Gwinnett is forced to bring several dormant wells back into service. We are long past watering yards and washing cars; we now face a situation where Georgians may not have enough water to drink. We are put in a position where we have to choose between the health and safety of the people who live in Georgia or protecting species that will now be endangering our welfare. This is a good first step in the right direction.”
Congressman Phil Gingrey, R, (GA-11), said, “With a potential water crisis on the horizon, this legislation will help to ensure that the Endangered Species Act doesn’t turn the people of Georgia or any other state into an endangered species themselves. The Corps of Engineers -- in coordination with Georgia and every other state -- should have the necessary flexibility to manage our water resources to avert a catastrophe of Biblical proportions.”
Congressman Lynn Westmoreland, R, (GA-03) said, “It’s rare that the Georgia delegation is of one mind on major legislation, but we’re united in this crisis to put our people before sturgeon and mussels. The legislation tweaks federal law to provide reasonable relief at a time when we’re taking extraordinary steps to conserve water in North Georgia and in West Georgia. I’d like to call special attention to my district, where the Corps needs to better manage Lake West Point, where we have to release more than we take in from the Chattahoochee. Georgia is taking responsible steps to conserve; we need the federal government to take equally responsible steps to assist us.”
Congressman Tom Price, R, (GA-06) said, “Georgians have been extremely patient and generous with our water resources. It is unjust that Georgians are asked to continue providing water to neighboring states, while shortages threaten the health and economic survival of our state. The Corps of Engineers has not acted responsibly. Congressional action is imperative to allow Georgia to appropriately control our natural resources.”
Congressman Paul Broun, R, (GA-10) said, “The well-being of the people of Northeastern Georgia is being harmed due to a lack of water caused by the drought. Our legislation just makes sense. Suspending regulatory impediments that put the needs of fish and mussels ahead of Georgia’s people will make it easier for authorities to minimize the harm that Georgians face during this emergency situation.”
Last week, in a letter to the Corps, Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue requested the immediate alteration of all Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint reservoir releases, so that releases from Woodruff Dam at Lake Seminole are only equivalent to inflows, up to 5,000 cubic feet per second. The letter stipulates that any additional inflows above 5,000 cubic feet per second will be stored. In order to make a short-term immediate impact on Georgia’s water supply, Governor Perdue has requested this action be taken immediately, and kept in place until March 1, 2008.
Members of the Georgia delegation 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.
Members of the delegation have met with and sent letters to Secretary of the Army, Pete 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, urging them to update the Water Control Plan.
Secretary Geren gave his commitment that if and when mediation broke down and was not making progress, he would begin the update of the water control manuals. Geren’s predecessor had committed to begin the update of the water control manuals on January 2, 2007, but failed to honor that commitment.
On September 28, 2007, after judges involved in the mediation announced that the talks had broken down, Isakson and Chambliss sent a letter to Geren strongly urging him to honor his pledge to update the water control plan.