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Post-Session News… With a Dash of Political History

May 5, 2011

Probably the biggest water-related legislation to come out of the 2011 legislative session – SB 122, a bill to provide for public-private partnerships to build water supply infrastructure – has now earned Gov. Deal’s signature, as well as a handful of headlines in the news this week.

The AJC and Savannah Morning News had fairly run-of-the-mill stories on the signing, each noting the objections of environmentalists, though it was an earlier AJC story in April that detailed some of the biggest red flags that have been raised regarding SB 122. The key storyline here has to do with a proposed reservoir on an Etowah River tributary called Calhoun Creek in the North Georgia mountains.

The Dahlonega Nugget has done a lot of reporting on the Calhoun Creek project this spring, and the paper’s editorial board does not appear comfortable with the reservoir plan whatsoever.

Hundreds of miles away in southwest Georgia, there’s concern over SB 122 too. Check out this WALB TV clip featuring Flint Riverkeeper Board Chairman Paul DeLoach expressing his concerns over the future of equitable water management in Georgia… in what is apparently a new era of public-private partnerships to build reservoirs which may or may not suit the public good.

And to our west, the editors of the Anniston Star, too, have their own questions about what the new Georgia reservoir bill may mean for Alabama.

Last but not least, Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper Sally Bethea took the opportunity to zing SB 122 in an excellent guest column this week for the Saporta Report:

 The public-private partnership reservoir bill (SB 122) passed during the 2011 session was driven largely by those who stand to benefit financially from publicly-funded projects that promote new development with amenity lakes—wealthy landowners and developers, engineers, lawyers and lobbyists for these schemes.

This bill was ramrodded through the legislature this year with unprecedented bullying, no opportunity for amendment and few chances to question the bill’s proponents. Only disregard for the truth can explain such undemocratic behavior on the part of many of our elected officials.

Truth be told, Bethea’s column in the Saporta Report is highly recommended for taking the broad view of Georgia’s leadership vacuum on water issues, and for its historical perspective on an Atlanta that has weathered its share of challenges in the past – and is closer than ever to some key decision points on an issue fundamental to its future.

– Ben Emanuel

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