U.S. Senators introduce water bills
Published 6:29 am Friday, October 1, 2010
U.S. Sens. Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss introduced legislation Thursday they claim aims to ensure Georgia’s water needs.
The two Republican senators introduced four pieces of legislation.
The first piece of legislation, S.3910, would authorize the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to include the effects of current and future water supply withdrawals from Lake Lanier in the update of the water control manual for the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin.
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Currently, the Corps is not including water supply withdrawals in the update of the manual for the ACF basin.
Isakson and Chambliss said in a news released that they believe that a document that doesn’t take into account current and future water supply withdrawals from Lake Lanier as well as other points in the system is useless.
“I will continue to work closely with all stakeholders in Georgia toward a resolution of the longstanding dispute between Alabama, Florida and Georgia over water. It is critical that we reach an agreement that is in the best interest of Georgia while at the same time respecting the interests and concerns of Florida and Alabama,” Isakson said in the news release. “However, Senator Chambliss and I believe we should work to abide by Judge Magnuson’s ruling and do everything in our power to ensure Georgia’s water needs will be met.”
U.S. District Court Judge Paul Magnuson ruled in July 2009 that the original intent of Lake Lanier—which was not to supply water for Atlanta-metro area’s 4 million people—must be honored and future water withdraws must receive the approval of Congress.
“It’s critical that Georgia, Alabama and Florida come to an agreement on water resources that meets the needs of the three states,” said Chambliss. “From a federal standpoint, Senator Isakson and I will continue to explore additional avenues to support the negotiations and make sure Georgia has an adequate supply of water.”
The second piece of legislation, S.13, would allow cities and counties who withdraw water from a federal reservoir to subtract the amount of water they return to the reservoir from a wastewater or water supply system from their total withdrawal.
Currently, local governments do not receive any credit for the treated water that they return to the reservoir.
The third piece of legislation, S.12, would authorize Lake Lanier for the purpose of municipal and industrial water supply.
Magnuson ruled that Georgia must stop withdrawing water in three years from Lake Lanier for the metro Atlanta region’s water supply unless it can get permission from Congress to do so.
Magnuson’s ruling says Lake Lanier wasn’t authorized to provide the metro Atlanta region’s water supply and that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been illegally reallocating water from Lake Lanier to meet metro Atlanta’s water needs.
Magnuson cited a lengthy historical record of testimony before Congress and Corps of Engineers documents to establish that serving Atlanta’s water needs was only an incidental purpose for the lake. He noted that Georgia officials argued as much to avoid having to pay for part of the project when the reservoir was built in the 1950s.
The fourth piece of legislation, S.3911, would authorize both Lake Lanier and Lake Allatoona for the purpose of municipal and industrial water supply.
Chambliss and Isakson in July urged the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to include the effects of current and future water supply withdrawals from Lake Lanier in the update of the water control manual for the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin.
In a letter written to Jo-Ellen Darcy, assistant secretary of the Army for Civil Works, and Lt. Gen. Robert Van Antwerp, Georgia’s U.S. senators said they were concerned about the scope of the Environmental Impact Statement in light of the recent order by Judge Magnuson.
Many viewed Magnuson’s ruling as a blow to Georgia’s fight in the 20-year battle over water within the ACF basin.