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IBT Regulations: Yes or No?

March 25, 2010

As the General Assembly hurtles toward Crossover Day — the day when a
given bill must pass its house of origin or die for the year — the
issue of interbasin transfers of water (or IBTs) is caught up in the
fray… and, it seems, in danger of getting left behind.

Twin House and Senate bills (i.e. the River Basin Protection Act)
dropped a couple of weeks ago with the support of dozens of sponsors
from all over the state and more than 2,000 citizens who signed the
No Water Grabs” petition online. But from the start, these bills to
regulate IBTs encountered opposition from the Metro Atlanta Chamber of
Commerce, Governor Perdue’s office and key legislators, as noted by
the Macon Telegraph and AJC earlier this month. The bills wouldn’t
prohibit IBTs, but would merely provide criteria for evaluating them,
as well as much-improved public notice.

Sure enough, key legislators like Sen. Ross Tolleson haven’t let the
River Basin Protection Act out of committee. Hence this week’s failed
attempt by Sen. J.B. Powell to tack IBT guidelines on to a separate
bill having to do with interconnections between Metro Atlanta water
systems, detailed in the Augusta Chronicle. The interconnection bill,
meanwhile, passed the Senate easily, according to the AJC. The truth,
of course, is that the bills don’t fundamentally conflict with each
other: a bill calling for interconnection plans to be drawn up is a
very good place for guidelines on what such plans should or shouldn’t
look like.

The leadership of the Atlanta-based Earth Covenant Ministry penned an
AJC op-ed this week supporting IBT regulations, and last weekend a
column by Ron Cross (of the Columbia County Commission and Savannah
basin Water Planning Council) ran in papers from Athens to Tifton.
Also notable: the joint op-ed by gubernatorial candidates Jeff Chapman
and DuBose Porter, and the attention to this storyline from our
neighbors in South Carolina.

The coming days promise to be fast-moving at the Capitol, so keep an
eye on this critical water issue of the 2010 session.

-Ben Emanuel

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