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Loose Ends in 2010

June 2, 2010

Georgia’s 2010 Legislative session, the longest in modern history, ended late in the evening on April 29.  Visit the Georgia Water Coalition for a complete review of the session’s significant water related activity, including why interbasin transfer (IBT) reform failed.  The Gold Dome has emptied out, but Georgia’s outgoing Sonny Perdue still has a lot of work to do from the Governor’s Mansion.

The Water Stewardship Act of 2010 sailed through the legislature early in the session.  The measure is outstanding on many accounts, but falls short on funding, implementation mechanisms, and actual water savings.  The Guv signed the Act yesterday (June 1) on the shores of Lake Lanier.

HB 406: The private reservoir bill associated with the South Fulton Reservoir awaits the Guv’s signature or veto.  We prefer the latter.  This bill undermines existing intergovernmental water service agreements and discourages water utilities from investing in existing water systems. This bill was adopted primarily to allow the state to permit and fund the 440-acre pump-storage South Fulton Reservoir.

That other loose end: You may recall the famous group-hug the Guv looked forward to with his Alabama and Florida counterparts in December 2009.  You may also recall that each governor – a lame duck in their respective states – pledged to sort out an Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River compact before their respective legislative sessions ended.  Those deadlines – like many others in the decade’s long tri-state water war – came and went without any solution in sight.

“We’ve had to move the goalpost:” That, according to Perdue’s spokesman Bert Brantley, is where we are today.  Since January 2010 we have presumed that negotiations continued after the talks were legally shrouded in secrecy.  While Brantley claims nobody has walked away from the table or refused to participate, the Rockdale Citizen suggests the governors may have already given up on the talks: Georgia Lt. Governor Casey Cagle’s chief of staff Bart Gobeil “said talks between the three governors may stall” since each governor will leave “office due to term limits” or to stand election for another office.  “I wish I could tell you confidently we will have an agreement…[but]…I can’t do that right now,” Perdue said after signing the Water Stewardship Act, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Finish the job: The three governors’ collective inability to help solve a critical economic and environmental problem – water supply – could even cause distress in their legislative colleagues’ upcoming election cycle.  AJC columnist Jay Bookman recently quoted John O’Keefe, a staff member for U.S. House rep Phil Gingrey (GA): Without a tri-state resolution “Gov. Perdue would bear the brunt of the blame” for Georgia’s “economic death knell.”  This prospect clearly “worries” Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce president Sam Williams.  Another U.S. House rep summed up the three governors’ presumed sentiment in an information-packed AJC article: “It’s much easier, [Lynn] Westmoreland said, for the three governors to leave the problem for their replacements.”  We’d love to see some resolution on the tri-state water war, but given the timeline and the term limits it is unlikely this final loose end will be knotted anytime soon.

-Chris Manganiello

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