RICHMOND, Va. (AP) -- The Southern Environmental Law Center is out with its latest endangered places in the Southeast and there are some familiar items among the top 10 - including a series of reservoirs planned around Atlanta.
The list released Thursday includes places in six states that the environmental group said face the threat of intrusive development, such as proposed highways and energy projects. It includes, for instance, Southside Virginia and what it calls the continuing threat of uranium mining; and a proposed timber sale within view of the Blue Ridge Parkway near Asheville, N.C. Some 472 acres of forest could be lost, the SELC said.
Other entries include two unlined coal ash ponds near Myrtle Beach, S.C., that are leaking high levels of arsenic; and plans for reservoirs in the Atlanta area that the SELC says are "not needed and threaten water supplies for downstream communities, numerous headwater streams and aquatic ecosystems."
REPORT SINGLES OUT GLADES RESERVOIR
As for the planned Atlanta area reservoirs, Hall County's Glades reservoir is singled-out in the report.
According to the SELC, the persistent growth and sprawl of metro Atlanta has led to "reckless and unnecessary" plans for water supply reservoirs. Disregarding cheaper alternatives, such as using water from the already-existing Lake Lanier, numerous proposals for reservoirs span North Georgia. Reservoirs destroy the streams they dam and their surrounding areas, with ripple effects that spread to downstream waterways and communities."
The group notes that many of these proposed reservoirs are located in the headwaters of Georgia's major rivers, including the Chattahoochee - a source of drinking water for downstream communities in Georgia, Alabama, and Florida, and a key focal point in the decades-long Tri-State Water Wars. Additional reservoirs on this system can siphon off water at a rate of millions of gallons per day, and their large surface areas result in a net loss of water through evaporation."
Hall County's Flat Creek, located at historical Glades Farm, is at the forefront of these destructive reservoir proposals, the report says. "This project would result in the loss of 25 miles of streams and 850 acres of the rural farmland to flooding, ruining the beauty of the farm and impacting the waters that supply metro Atlanta. This unnecessary project's true purpose appears to be an amenity for future waterfront homes, funded by the taxpayers of Georgia."
The SELC says is actively involved in monitoring several "unnecessary reservoir proposals and will urge federal and state regulators to conduct thorough analyses of their environmental impacts and to give full consideration to less costly and less harmful alternatives, as required by law."
To protect Flat Creek, the SELC says it is asking the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to show in their forthcoming environmental impact statement that, in fact, the Glades Farm reservoir is not needed, that it would decrease overall water availability through increased evaporation, and that evidence suggests its true purpose may be to create waterfront property for a future development.
County spokeswoman Katie Crumley said she had been advised to refer all media inquiries on the matter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers "since that is who is overseeing the permitting process."
OTHER ENDANGERED LIST ENTRIES
The other entries on the endangered list, the fifth annual edition, and an SELC description of the threats are:
Alabama: Talladega National Forest, which faces pressure to allow a drilling process known as fracking, which the SELC said threatens drinking water supplies and could bring industrial operations to camping and hiking areas.
North Carolina: Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, threatened by plans to widen U.S. 64, destroying 300 acres of wetland and habitat for the last wild population of red wolves; Cape Fear Basin, a cement plant proposed near Wilmington that would destroy 1,000 acres of wetlands.
Tennessee: GoForth Creek Canyon on the Ocoee Scenic Byway, a new highway through the Cherokee National Forest.
Virginia: A proposed $224 million bypass that would scar the city that is home to the University of Virginia; and the Coalfields Expressway through the rural southwest region of the state.
The SELC's Nat Mund, the group's legislative director, said there is no reason states should have to choose "between a healthy environment and a healthy economy" when investments in clean energy can achieve both.
(AccessNorthGa.com's Ken Stanford contributed to this report.)