ATLANTA — For the fifth time, the Georgia Water Coalition has issued its "Dirty Dozen" report, listing the worst offenses to the state's waterways; this year, two of the 12 are located in north Georgia.
Creeks in Union County could face damage from commercial logging
First on the list is Cooper Creek in Union County, where the U.S. Forest Service has plans for the Cooper Creek Watershed Project. Joe Cook with the Georgia Water Coalition said in a tele-press conference Wednesday morning that the plan to harvest timber on 3,700 acres along the Cooper, Coosa and Youngcane Creeks could lead to big problems for those waterways and others downstream.
"Harvesting timber on such steep [mountain] slopes where soil is more susceptible to erosion is not recommended within the timber industry, but soil erosion is a big threat for these mountain creeks," said Cook.
Cooper Creek flows into the Toccoa River and eventually into Lake Blue Ridge, according to document listed in the Dirty Dozen Report.
The recommendation from the Coalition is for the U.S. Forest Service to end commercial logging in the Chattahoochee National Forest.
Tubers on the upper Chattahoochee threaten the river in the Helen area
Coming in at the fifth position on the 2015 list is the portion of the Chattahoochee River that runs through Alpine Helen, a popular place for tourists to "shoot the Hooch" in warmer weather.
Business owners along that portion of the river report massive amounts of trash left behind in the water and along the banks of the river by tubers. A portion of the blame should go to the people who operate the tubing businesses, according to Jimmy Harris of Unicoi Outfitters, a business located on the river just south of Helen.
"What we're talking about is just being a good neighbor and right now neither the city of Helen or some of the businesses fit that description," said Harris.
He said it doesn't appear the operators of the tubing businesses are educating their customers on how to use the river responsibly. Over and above that, Harris said there are just too many tubers on the river at a given time.
"That sounds like a terrible thing to say, to tell somebody they have to restrict their business, but the truth is, you know, that's a resource that can only take so much," said Harris. "There's very, very little done on behalf of the companies in town that use that resource as their primary source of income...to protect it or even clean it up."
Harris said he hires someone to clean up the area around his business and they've found everything from deflated inner tubes to broken life jackets, clothing items, aluminum cans and glass bottles.
For a complete look at the 2015 Dirty Dozen report, go to the Georgia Water Coalition website.