Thursday May 26th, 2016 2:39PM

'Water war' brought into debate over plan to supplement Ga. streams

By The Associated Press
ATLANTA (AP) -- After it failed last year, a measure that Georgia regulators say would prevent wildlife deaths during drought is making the rounds again in the Legislature.

And again, environmental groups are concerned it is really meant to help alleviate a long-running water dispute with Florida in a way that could allow Atlanta to consume more water.

The dispute focuses on the Flint River basin, formed by a river that begins south of Atlanta and flows through southwest Georgia. During droughts, the streams and waterways in that river basin run very low, endangering wildlife. State officials have resorted to pumping water from underground aquifers into those waterways to increase water flows.

Judson Turner, director of Georgia's Environmental Protection Division, said the reworked legislation would strengthen his authority to stop people downstream from using water intended to protect wildlife. Under current state law, people in Georgia can generally use as much water as they want so long as their use does not harm others.

Turner said that if a lack of water harmed wildlife during a drought, federal officials might force the state to drastically cut water usage.

"We've got to do some things to manage ourselves in this basin, and we need some help," Turner told lawmakers Thursday.

Opponents like the Flint Riverkeeper fault the bill for creating winners and losers. Gordon Rogers, the organization's executive director, said it could force restrictions on people who withdraw water from the surface, mainly farmers, but leave other users untouched. Farmers upstream from a state pump could be left better off than farmers downstream.

He also said backers of the bill are more interested in building billion-dollar infrastructure related to Georgia's long-running water disputes with Alabama and Florida, not wildlife.

"The winners in this case are folks that are embedded in the bureaucracy who are in league with insiders for investment projects," Rogers told state lawmakers this week.

Two years ago, a lobbying firm run by the former director of the Department of Natural Resources and a government council in southwest Georgia applied for state funding to test whether water could be pumped into underground storage aquifers during rainy seasons, then be pumped back out into waterways during dry spells.

That technology could be used to protect wildlife from droughts. But it would also add water to the Flint River, which along with the Chattahoochee River flows into Florida and then out to the Gulf of Mexico.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott filed a lawsuit in October that accuses Georgia of taking too much water, harming Florida's Gulf-based oyster industry. He wants the U.S. Supreme Court to decide how much water each state should get.

If the proposed technology was implemented as was envisioned by the lobbyists and local government council, Georgia could pump more water into the Flint outside of metro Atlanta. That might guarantee more water for Florida - and thus enable metro Atlanta to withdraw more water from the Chattahoochee River system.

Gov. Nathan Deal's administration is funding a project to test underground storage and pumping technology, but does not yet know whether the concept is feasible. The legislation and the storage and pumping plan are not connected, Turner says. And the lobbyists and government council that pitched a similar plan last year are no longer involved in the project.
© Copyright 2016
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
US stocks post sixth straight year of gains
U.S. stocks ended a strong 2014 with moderate declines Wednesday.
4:43PM ( 1 year ago )
Palestinians push ahead in pursuit of war crimes charges against Israel
Stung by a resounding defeat in the U.N. Security Council, the Palestinians announced Wednesday that they joined the International Criminal Court to pursue war crimes charges against Israel.
1:57PM ( 1 year ago )
Business News
Grass fire impacts rush hour traffic on 985
Rush hour traffic on I-985 was slowed by a grass fire Wednesay afternoon with one lane closed while firefighters fought the blaze.
10:19PM ( 1 year ago )
Judge denies motions to move, delay Tsarnaev trial
Lawyers for Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev asked a federal appeals court Wednesday to overturn a judge's decision to not move his upcoming trial out of state.
10:02PM ( 1 year ago )
Sheriff: Man shot 2 on I-85 because he wanted car
A 22-year-old man shot two people who stopped to give him a ride on Interstate 85 in South Carolina on Christmas Eve because he wanted their car to drive to Georgia, a sheriff said Wednesday.
5:21PM ( 1 year ago )
Local/State News
US off war footing at year's end, but wars go on
Taking America off a permanent war footing is proving harder than President Barack Obama may have suggested.
6:13PM ( 1 year ago )
GOP leader regrets talk to white supremacists; party leaders rally around him
House Republican leaders rallied around one of their own, Whip Steve Scalise, on Tuesday after he said he regrets speaking 12 years ago to a white supremacist organization and condemns the views of such groups.
6:08PM ( 1 year ago )
Conviction of Putin foe sets off protest in Moscow
President Vladimir Putin's chief political foe was convicted along with his brother on Tuesday in a fraud case widely seen as a vendetta by the Kremlin, triggering one of Russia's boldest anti-government demonstrations in years.
6:03PM ( 1 year ago )
State patrol chopper practices water drops on Lanier island fire
​A Georgia State Patrol helicopter dumped water on an island fire in Lake Lanier yesterday (Wednesday) afternoon, but not to extinguish it.
1:44PM ( 55 minutes ago )
Trump reaches the magic number to clinch nomination
Donald Trump has reached the number of delegates needed to clinch the Republican nomination for president, completing an unlikely rise that has upended the political landscape and sets the stage for a bitter fall campaign
10:45AM ( 3 hours ago )
Four Hall County schools among those in the area to receive state's Greatest Gains awards
More than 187 Georgia public schools - including four in Hall County - will receive the state's Highest Performing or Greatest Gains school awards.
By AccessWDUN staff
9:52AM ( 4 hours ago )
Applications for US unemployment benefits fell last week
Applications for US unemployment benefits fell last week, a sign companies cut fewer jobs
8:44AM ( 5 hours ago )
Gainesville metro once again boasts lowest unemployment rate in Georgia
The Georgia Department of Labor announced Thursday morning that Metro Gainesville’s unemployment rate for April was 4.2 percent, down three-tenths of a percentage point from 4.5 percent in March.
By AccessWDUN staff
7:00AM ( 7 hours ago )