There are no operational aquifer storage and recovery (ASR) projects in Georgia. A moratorium on ASR operations in coastal Georgia’s Floridian aquifer has been in place since 1999; the moratorium will expire in 2014. Drillers previously conducted an ASR experiment in northwest Georgia (Coosa River basin) between 2009 and 2012. Today, an ASR and stream-flow augmentation project is currently in development in southwest Georgia (Flint River basin).
ASR Moratorium: Coastal Georgia
In 1996, TSG (The Savannah Group Water Services) – a water supply company, applied for three surface water withdrawal permits with a combined surface withdrawal of 131 MGD from the Ogeechee, Altamaha and Savannah Rivers. After Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division (EPD) rejected the initial request, TSG modified their applications – which had already included an ASR project that would utilize Ogeechee River surface water and injection into the Floridian aquifer.
However, grassroots opposition to the withdrawals and ASR proposal forced the General Assembly to institute a moratorium between 1999 and December 2002 on ASR projects that would inject water into the Floridian aquifer beneath eleven coastal Georgia counties (HB 502). In 2003, then-EPD director Harold Reheis noted (see p. 123), “ASR can be a viable” water supply option, “but it got off to a bad start” in Georgia. “Anyone who tries ASR in the future will face an uphill battle.” This moratorium has been extended multiple times, most recently in 2009 (HB 552) and is set to expire in July 2014.
ASR Experiment Fails: Northwest Georgia
On April 29, 2013, GPB’s Orlando Montoya originally reported that aquifer storage and recovery (ASR) “has been used nationwide…but never in Georgia.” In fact, ASR was previously tested in northwest Georgia – and failed – by some of the same special interests promoting the Flint River ASR experimental project. While there was initial media coverage of the northwest Georgia ASR project in 2009, there has been no media reporting on the project’s failure to meet expectations.
ASR Systems, LLC – in partnership with Dalton Utilities (DU) – financed and managed drilling of two exploratory ASR wells on land owned by DU. The sites were selected because it was thought the geology under DU land would produce the intended results. The goal was to develop wells that would inject treated surface water underground during periods of high flow and recover water during drought periods.
At the time, the ill-fated ASR experiment was justified with the same language the public is hearing today regarding the Flint River ASR experiment: resolve the tri-state water war; reservoir cost v. ASR cost; no need for US Army Corps 404 permit. However, according to ASR Systems (p. 12), “following completion of the test wells…cumulative yields of less than 100 gpm” were “considered to be insufficient… to justify further development.
Subsequently, ASR Systems and DU identified two additional test well sites that are assumed to be closer to a geologic formation more favorable for ASR operations. But with no more no more money available, DU decided not to explore ASR options any further and ASR Systems turned to southwest Georgia for more exploration.
ASR and SB 213: Southwest Georgia
With an ASR moratorium set to expire in coastal Georgia and a failed ASR project in northwest Georgia, ASR Systems and EPD have a lot riding on the Flint River ASR project. To complicate the uphill battle, the Flint experiment has its own baggage.
In short, the Southwest Georgia Regional Commission (SWGRC) submitted a Governor’s Water Supply Program (GWSP) application for a $13.5 million experimental “large flow augmentation project” in the Flint and Chattahoochee River basins. The SWGRC apparently considered the project because Joe Tanner & Associates (Reheis’ current employer) “approached” the SWGRC with a plan. After evaluating the application and despite finding no “need” for the project, the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority (GEFA) extended a $4.6 million state direct investment from the GWSP to the SWGRC for a revised stream flow augmentation project in the Flint River basin that could be applied elsewhere.
It’s important to understand that this stream flow augmentation “demonstration” project will be different from the northwest Georgia experiment. The Flint ASR project will suck surface water through stream banks and the Upper Floridian aquifer during periods of high stream flow and inject that water into the deep Claiborne and Clayton aquifers for storage. Then during periods of low flow, the water will be recovered from the deep aquifers and put into Flint River tributaries. Read the Scope of Work here.
Project justification. According to the 2012 SWGRC application, “A key element of this Project when fully implemented, is a suggested ‘water exchange’” that will benefit metro Atlanta. At full build-out the ASR project’s water “would be made available to metro Atlanta.” Under this proposal, highly productive southwest Georgia farmers would be forced to send water into Florida so that Metro Atlanta can use more water upstream.
How will the SWGRC pay for a full-scale $900 million to $1.2 billion ASR system and water exchange? The applicant’s long‐term goal is to turn the demonstration project into 30 operating wells on public and private land that will be paid for with “local water utility revenues.” Which local water utilities? “Metro Atlanta utilities may be willing to support the issuance of bonds to finance construction” of the ASR project. The project could add to Metro Atlanta water supply but at an extremely high cost that is projected to fall on Metro utility ratepayers, who already pay the highest water bills in the state.
As I have written about before, SB 213 and the Flint River ASR projects are connected. If the stream “augmentation” language remains in SB 213, then the water that is deposited back into the Flint River tributaries during ASR operations will not be available to riparian property owners downstream. SB 213 provides statutory protection for an experimental, speculative and expensive ASR scheme that may not work while significantly changing Georgia water law and property rights.
Georgia’s environmental policy staff – from the EPD director on down the line – freely admit the ASR project is experimental and the outcomes are unknown. And because it’s not clear the project will work, EPD does not recommend setting any ASR policy before the project’s results are known, which are not expected until the year 2016. With such a long timeline, why does EPD support the stream augmentation language in SB 213? If there is truly no need to put the cart before the horse, as the EPD director has said, then there is no reason to change Georgia’s water law. Or is there?
If the Flint ASR experiment succeeds and the coastal moratorium expires, then Georgia will likely begin pushing ASR solutions on the coast to avoid a looming bi-state water war with South Carolina. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, over-pumping of groundwater from the Upper Floridian aquifer is allowing saltwater to intrude into the aquifer shared by the two states. ASR Systems previously designed and built an ASR system in South Carolina that injects treated surface water (from the Savannah River) underground for storage (p. 6). But unless the two states agree to a resolution – South Carolina and Georgia reportedly are sitting on their tentative proposals – South Carolina has threatened to take Georgia to court.
One need look no further than the SWGRC’s 2012 GWSP application for evidence of the consultants’ – and perhaps EPD’s – next targets: “Outside of the Flint River Basin, the [ASR] flow augmentation approach could be applied directly or indirectly via tributaries to the Suwannee River, Coosa River or the Savannah River.” In order for ASR-fed stream flow augmentation projects to succeed in the Flint or the Savannah river basins – and that’s assuming ASR would even work there – Georgia’s legislature will have to change a long-standing regulated riparian legal tradition. And that is exactly what SB 213 could accomplish and why the bill must not survive the 2014 legislative session.
The recent news that the SWGRC will pull out of the Flint River ASR scheme also reveals the shell game. And this turn of events adds to the tempest swirling around SB 213.
What author Charles Fishman learned when he sat with Las Vegas water czarina Patricia Mulroy became relevant again a week ago. During that interview he discovered something about Georgia’s attitude toward the tri-state water war with Alabama and Florida.
In December 2008 and while Georgia was gripped by drought, Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue’s legal team traveled to Vegas, perhaps thinking they might commiserate with Mulroy. They explained to the chair of the Las Vegas Valley Water District and the Southern Nevada Water Authority that Georgia doesn’t “have a water problem. We have an endangered species problem.” Mulroy – all brass tacks – “lost it” and found the lawyers’ attitude “hilarious,” according to Fishman in The Big Thirst: The Secret Life and Turbulent Future of Water.
Here is why: Mulroy is responsible for making sure Las Vegas’ 2 million residents have drinking water. This desert city – where people are invited to visit to forget reality – added 60,000 residents per year between 1990 and 2007. Plus, it has been estimated that about 36 million people – or the equivalent of 10 percent of the U.S. population visits Vegas annually. But during that same time period, the city did not add any new sources of water supply.
I don’t want to get too far into the weeds, but Las Vegas – like metro Atlanta – gets water from a federal reservoir: Lake Mead (filled by the Colorado River, which is bone dry by the time it reaches the Gulf of California) is Vegas’ Lake Lanier (which is located near the headwaters of the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin). Between 2000 and 2009, metro Atlanta – a 28 county region with 140 municipalities and more than 500 utilities – grew by 136,000 people per year. More than five million people call metro Atlanta home.
SB 213: Mulroy’s reminiscence about Perdue’s lead negotiators dovetails with the Georgia General Assembly’s and the Environmental Protection Division’s (EPD) interest in revising the Flint River Drought Protection Act via SB 213 during the 2013 session. According to EPD and SB 213’s proponents, the bill’s stream augmentation section can’t be divorced from protecting Flint River farmers from hypothetical U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) law suits over endangered species. In fact, FWS has been working with Georgia’s Wildlife Resources Division to maintain healthy mussel habitat at a place called Spring Creek.
ASR: As I have written elsewhere because SB 213 proponents elected not to discuss the matter with Senate and House audiences until the eleventh hour, we must understand the connection between SB 213 and an experimental “large flow augmentation” aquifer storage and recovery project (ASR) in the Flint River’s tributaries funded by the Governor’s Water Supply Program. If the stream “augmentation” language remains in SB 213 (lines 183-210), then the water that is deposited back into the Flint River tributaries by ASR operations will not be available to riparian property owners downstream. This will set a dangerous precedent for other Georgia river basins.
Water Exchange: As reported by Ray Henry for the AP, the ASR water may one day become part of a “water exchange” where, according to the ASR project’s sponsor, “Aquifer storage volume underground in Southwest Georgia could be exchanged for surface reservoir storage volume above ground in Lake Lanier.” In this scenario, highly productive southwest Georgia farmers would be forced to send water into Florida so that metro Atlanta can have more water.
As currently written, SB 213 provides statutory protection for an experimental, speculative and expensive ASR scheme that many are doubtful will work while cobbling Georgia’s riparian water rights together with prior appropriation water rights. SB 213 is once again opening the door to the privatization and commodification of water supplies. Almost exactly ten years ago the General Assembly sparred over – and stripped – provisions in legislation (HB 237) which would have allowed water withdrawal permit trading. HB 237 – not unlike SB 213 – was promoted by Harold Reheis, a former EPD Director and current consultant working with Joe Tanner & Associates, the outfit largely behind the current ASR scheme.
In short, SB 213 must be amended to protect water rights for all Georgians. And SB 213 must also change, because in Mulroy’s words, “at the end of the day, the Atlanta metropolitan water district has to be able to serve its population with less water.” Municipal water supply is the real reason why SB 213 was never all about endangered species.
SB 213 Status: The bill was tabled and sent back to committee on day forty of the 2013 session because legislators and others were opposed to what the bill proposed to do. Given that 2013 is the first of a two-year legislative cycle, SB 213 will most likely become an intersession project that will reemerge in 2014. In fact, the bill’s sponsor has already proposed to try again next year.
Day 30 of the Georgia General Assembly’s legislative session has now come and gone. Thursday March 7 was Crossover Day, and it’s significant because in order to have hope of passage this session, any proposed legislation had to be approved by its chamber of origin (either the House or Senate) by Day 30. Less then ten days remain in the 2013 session, and Day 40 is predicted to fall in late March.
The Georgia Water Coalition (GWC) tracked a number of bills, but here is a quick sampling of what survived one chamber and what lays in wait.
HB 199: Water Supply for Economic Security will allow funding from the Georgia Reservoir Fund to be used for water efficiency and conservation projects in addition to new reservoir projects and other water supply projects. The GWC supports HB 199.
HB 127 and HB 276: Saving the Trust Funds. HB 276 would renew the Hazardous Waste Trust Fund for a period of five years and proposes to reduce fees collected under this program if the funds are redirected to the general fund instead of their original purpose. HB 127 will protect other trust funds’ revenue streams – like the Solid Waste Trust Fund – in a similar manner. The GWC supports HB 127 and HB 276.
SB 213: Stealing Property Rights in the Flint River Basin. The bill was amended to include a comprehensive study of the basin (including all permit types) and to outlaw aquifer storage and recovery (ASR) in the state of Georgia. The GWC was unable to get the “stream flow augmentation” section struck from the bill. As written, this bill will alter basic Georgia water law and threatens private property rights. This bill sends taxpayer dollars to campaign donors at the expense of downstream farmers and riparian land owners. And, experimental stream augmentation – via an expensive ASR test in south Georgia – will not resolve the tri-state water war. The GWC opposes SB 213 as currently written.
SR 267: Healing Noyes Cut will address an issue featured in the 2012 Dirty Dozen Report, and that began in the early 20th century when a half-mile channel was dug through Georgia’s coastal marshlands for the purposes of moving timber to market via river barges. The channel, known as Noyes Cut, remains today and is wreaking havoc on migrating fish, blue crabs and boating routes near the mouth of the Satilla River. The Army Corps of Engineers did a study in the 1980s that recommended the closing of Noyes Cut to address these issues. SR 276 urges the United States Army Corps of Engineers to study this project to plug Noyes Cut within the Satilla River System. GWC supports SR 267.
Since 2013 is the first of a two-year legislative cycle, some bills may get a second chance during the 2014 session.
HB 549: The Emergency Response bill creates a statutory mandate for emergency response to ensure that EPD’s emergency response program will be staffed and funded when budget decisions are made. The bill requires appropriate and timely responses to emergencies (like spills and fish kills) that threaten the state’s waters and proper public notification and coordination between the state and local communities to protect the health of our families during emergencies. The GWC supports HB 549.
HB 225: Legislative Attempt to Rule EPD. This roll-back would require the General Assembly to approve all the Board of Natural Resources’ adoptions, amendments, and modifications of the Environmental Protection Division’s rules and regulations prior to promulgation. The GWC opposes HB 225.
HB357/SB 176: Another roll-back, the Amnesty for Polluters and toxics pollution of groundwater bill allows the director of the EPD to substitute a much less stringent state voluntary cleanup process in lieu of the federal process at hazardous waste treatment, storage and disposal facilities that require permits, which require public notice and public participation in the cleanup process. This bill substantially weakens the requirements for hazardous waste site clean-up while also threatening groundwater protections and the private property rights of people who own land adjacent to hazardous waste sites. The proposed bills have been tabled for further study during the summer. GWC opposes these bills.
Senate Bill 213 officially opened up the Flint River Drought Protection Act (FRDPA) for revision, and the Senate Natural Resources and Environment committee moved the bill forward to the Senate Rules Committee before it heads to the full Senate for a floor vote. SB 213 is fatally flawed in current form and must be amended or defeated.
The FRDPA has a long history and its revision has been further complicated by a connection to a tax-payer funded aquifer storage and recovery (ASR) boondoggle. But of greater importance to all Georgians and down-streamers anywhere: SB 213 contains an assault on property rights and the well-established tradition of riparian water rights.
What’s Wrong with the FRDPA? The FRDPA requires the Georgia Environmental Protection Division director to declare a drought in March in the lower Flint River basin and triggers a process whereby the state can pay farmers not to irrigate. The flawed system has never worked quite right despite years of drought and was previously financed with tobacco settlement money that dried up long-ago.
The Proposed Solutions: The best parts of SB 213 include requirements for more flow studies, attempts to make agricultural irrigation more efficient, and an overarching goal to manage flows in the lower Flint River’s tributaries to benefit farmers and endangered species. The EPD director would have the option to pay farmers not to irrigate. But even the best revisions are endangered by a poison pill: the state’s power to dictate when and who can use the water between the banks (see lines 174-185).
ASR Boondoggle: Right now, the lower Flint “steam augmentation” experiments that are moving forward have consequences for the state’s rivers and tax-payers. In mid-2012, the Governor’s Water Supply Program (GWSP) extended $4.6 million in direct state investment (like a grant) to a dubious ASR demonstration experiment. Here is how ASR works. The project is supposed to suck water from the lower Flint’s tributaries and the Chattahoochee River during high flows and store (pump) the water in deep underground aquifers. Then during times of low surface water flows, the state will recover the stored water (that is, pump it back to the surface) from underground and put the water back in the lower Flint’s tributaries or the Chattahoochee.
The first GWSP financed ASR well slated for construction will get sunk on the Elmodel Wildlife Management Area. If ever completed at full scale, the ASR experimental project will cost more than $1.2 billion with no clear revenue source, require a lot of energy, and mix surface water contaminates with uncontaminated ground water supplies. It’s also worth noting that even though the ASR application received GWSP funds, the applicants apparently demonstrated “zero” need for the project, and failed to demonstrate how the project will “provide substantial regional benefit” or “serve/benefit a significant number of Georgians” who need expanded drinking water supplies.
SB 213 Seizes Water Rights: As dictated by the bill, when an authorized stream augmentation or ASR project is recovering water, the water put back into the lower Flint will “not be available for withdrawal” by property owners who live downstream. SB 213 is a blatant attempt to protect the state’s ill-conceived tax-payer funded investment in an un-needed ASR scheme and a state claim of ownership to a public resource.
Frankenstein: By grafting the ASR scheme and SB 213 together, Flint River farmers and property owners will sacrifice property and water rights so metro Atlanta residents can water their lawns, Georgia can avoid a legal fight over endangered species, and Georgia can claim another victory in the Tri-State water wars. We should also be wary of granting funds to an innovative ASR demonstration project that could fail to deliver like Solyndra squandered a federal loan and failed to deliver innovative solar technology. Georgia’s monster combination will not solve existing problems and will only create new problems.
Moving Forward: A revised SB 213 must address the entire Flint River basin and all water withdrawal permit holders. That would include municipal, industrial and agricultural permit holders and water consumers that live and work in an area stretching from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport to Bainbridge. The Flint is a microcosm for Georgia: how we choose to balance a single basin to benefit every economic sector – from small businesses to multinational corporations, and from suburban residents to farmers – at the same time while maintaining the healthy flows that everyone needs could be a great lesson for the rest of the region. SB 213 is not currently the right vehicle to get there.
Three other Flint River related news items: First, Georgia River Network’s Paddle Georgia 2013 will take place on the lower Flint River where the river flows (while that’s not always the case in the upper river above the fall-line). Paddle Georgia 2013 sold-out in 24-hours (a new record) in February.
Second: Professional photographers and journalists David and Michael Hanson will paddle the entire Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River basin this spring. The Atlanta natives are collecting stories, images, and video for a planned documentary film: Chattahoochee: Who Owns Water?
Finally, in 2009, American Rivers named the Flint the #2 Endangered River in America because of an ongoing threat that dams might rise from the river’s bedrock. American Rivers continues to work in the basin with the Flint Riverkeeper, and you can read more about their shared goal to create a “water budget” for the entire Flint River system.
An outstanding investigative spread in the Macon Telegraph puts a spotlight on dam safety, state regulation, community awareness of the risks, and the life-cycle of earthen dams. But the story also reveals an opportunity for those interested in the future of Georgia’s water supply.
In the first of a four piece story, Heather Duncan concludes: the Georgia Environmental Protection Division’s (EPD) Safe Dams Program and the seven staff responsible for investigating, evaluating, and helping shore up more than 4,000 dams is underfunded and understaffed. As such, dams – holding drinking water, coal ash, kaolin waste, pulp mill by-products or other pollutants – could fail and threaten downstream homeowners (read: with death) and communities’ drinking water supplies. The series includes an interactive map identifying Middle Georgia dams and dam safety videos.
Dam failures in Georgia are not uncommon according to this part of the Telegraph’s series. Dams failed in Middle Georgia during Tropical Storm Alberto in 1994. During another event, one failed in Athens in 2010. And of course, the most talked about dam failure in Georgia took place in 1977 when the Toccoa Dam broke and killed 39 sleeping people. This event spurred President Jimmy Carter to launch a national dam safety program. You can read more about these events in a previous Water Wire post and about national dam safety at Water Crunch.
The dam safety issue can be sliced by the numbers. Of the five states with the most dams, Georgia ranks number five.
First, the big picture. While the big ones are easy to find, we don’t know exactly how many dams there are in Georgia. The total number of dams in Georgia would include countless mill dams like those found from Columbus to Augusta, more than a dozen Georgia Power dams, and more than 350 “watershed” dams built for flood control since the 1950s. According to the National Inventory of Dams (NID), there are at least 4,606 dams over six feet tall in Georgia.
Per state law, Georgia’s Dam Safety Program only inspects dams taller than twenty-five feet and that hold back more than 100 acre-feet, and according to the NID, there approximately 2,000 in the state. Of those, approximately 480 are classified as “high-hazard” dams, meaning a failed dam would affect people living or working immediately downstream.
Second, by the basin. According to a variety of data sources, there are more than 25,000 dams and impoundments – as large as Lake Lanier and as small as an agricultural impoundment – in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River basin.
Third, by a sub-basin. Data from the upper Oconee River watershed demonstrates that the overall of number of impoundments in any given basin is almost certainly a low-ball figure. For example, the NID identified 276 dams in the upper Oconee watershed, while a “fine scale analysis” discovered more than 5,400 impoundments. In other words, the NID “does not account for 95 percent of the reservoirs in this watershed.” Read the 2002 University of Georgia River Basin Center report here.
Water Supply Opportunity? Given the sheer number of dams and artificial reservoirs in the state, it’s fair to say we already have more than enough water “stored” on our landscape. While the dams certainly affect downstream flow, the number of dams and acres of impounded water signal that Georgia taxpayers should not pay for additional new dams, amenity lakes and reservoirs. The Governor’s Water Supply Program (GWSP) is distributing scarce dollars to new water supply projects when the state should really be investing our tax dollars in making existing infrastructure more safe and efficient. If fiscally conservative Georgians really understood the politics behind the GWSP, they would probably beat it up as they did the Regional T-SPLOST in 2012.
Georgians already have a significant supply of water in storage. It’s worth exploring if sources like Lake Lanier could be expanded (while protecting downstream interests) and tapped more cheaply than building new supply sources. A good reservoir expansion example includes Douglas County’s Dog River Reservoir.
Here is a quick summary of a resolution and bill of interest – fourteen days into the forty-day-long session.
Before that – in case you don’t remember how a bill becomes a law – have no fear, Schoolhouse Rock to the rescue! Or, see the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government visual for a Georgia specific representation.
Interbasin Transfer: House Resolution 4 – which was actually pre-filled in December – is an interbasin transfer (IBT) pipe dream. The resolution proposes to settle a nearly 200 year old boundary “dispute” between Georgia and Tennessee. This one-sided “dispute” appears to be an annual preoccupation with legislators and consultants, including a northwest Georgia cohort intent on engineering an expensive and complicated transfer of water from the Tennessee River’s Nickajack Lake to metro-Atlanta via pipe, abandoned rail-way corridors, pumps, rock quarries, and existing Corps of Engineers’ reservoirs. This year’s co-sponsors signal an attempt to broaden the appeal, according to this Creative Loafing post. See also this Saporta Report story with a map. Regardless, I have written about this folly in other posts (start here).
In the hopper: House Bill 225 – like many bills – is an interesting case. This bill would amend the law so that: “no rule or regulation…which is to be administered by the Environmental Protection Division of the Department of Natural Resources shall become effective until approved by the General Assembly through the adoption of a joint resolution so stating.” That’s right, Gov. Nathan Deal’s recently reconstituted Board of Natural Resources is apparently running rough-shod over the legislature and is too soft on regulation. Go figure. It’s hard to imagine which body – a two-house General Assembly of 236 members that only meets for forty days a year or the nineteen-member DNR Board which meets ten times a year – is more adept at shaping the regulatory process. This bill will simply make “government bigger” and grind the regulatory process to a halt. We all know Gov. Deal wants to streamline the regulatory process in the name of making it more “business friendly” – HB 225 will not streamline anything.
As the 2013 General Assembly and the Governor talk through the FY2014 budget, there are three items of note connected to the Georgia Water Coalition’s (GWC) 2012 Dirty Dozen.
First, the budget “retains 100% of appropriated” funds for the Hazardous Waste Trust Fund (HWTF), which the GWC supports. When Georgians have their trash hauled and dumped at landfills, we pay a 75-cent-per-ton tipping fee that is used to create the state’s HWTF – a fund designed to clean up hazardous waste sites and help local governments remediate old, unlined landfills that pose a threat to drinking water and the environment. The HWTF is also sustained by fees on hazardous waste disposal and handling.
Of particular importance at the moment, the HWTF is set to expire in 2013. We believe a renewed HWTF, or additional legislation such as Rep. Jay Powell’s (R-Camilla) recently introduced HB 127, must include a requirement that funds be appropriated for their stated purpose or the stated fees should not be collected.
Since 2004, fees and fines designated for the HWTF have totaled an estimated $143 million, but because the General Assembly has the discretion to redirect funds, only $53 million (40 percent) has actually been deposited in the Trust Fund and made available to clean up the 560 sites listed in the Georgia Environmental Protection Division’s Hazardous Site Inventory. (For an example, read about the Tift Site on a South River trib in the Dirty Dozen.) The rest, $86.5 million, has been used by legislators to pay for other state expenses.
But the bad news is that the Solid Waste Trust Fund (SWTF) will be budgeted $57,000 less in FY2014 than the agency was budgeted in FY2013. This is interesting since the City of Atlanta has made illegal tire dumps in urban neighborhoods, vacant lots, and city creeks a hot legislative item. (See this old Creative Loafing story if you like visuals). These tire dumps symbolize a lack of environmental justice. And the lack-of-will to appropriate the monies bares the hall-marks of environmental racism. Read more about environmental inequity in metro Atlanta in Green Law’s excellent Patterns of Pollution report. You can also read about the SWTF in the Dirty Dozen.
Second, the Environmental Protection Division (and the Georgia Chamber of Commerce) are advocating for a budget allocation to fund the Regional Water Councils. The goal is to secure $500,000 in the next budget to provide some basic operations support. The lion’s share of this money will finance additional data collection and implementation of the Councils’ recommendations as a part of the State Water Plan process.
Third, the Governor’s Water Supply Program (GWSP) is set for another infusion of cash to finance more un-needed reservoirs. The GWC does not support unneeded reservoirs when all other water supply options – water conservation and efficiency, and reservoir expansion, for example – have not been fully utilized first. The FY2014 budget will direct $25,250,000 to the Department of Community Affairs ($4.5M for state direct investment) and the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority ($21M for loans). With this allocation, the total amount of money available for the second round of the GWSP comes to $92,000,000 ($48M for loans; $44M for state direct investment).
Stay tuned, there will be more to come as the bills drop…