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“Georgia Owns the Chattahoochee”

January 27, 2012

At a moment when Georgia is attempting to wrap-up negotiations with Alabama and Florida to bring an end to the decades-old tri-state water wars, such a statement comes across as inflammatory and inappropriate.  Pat Stevens, of the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC), passed this judgment at a recent meeting on Lake Lanier’s shoreline before the South Hall business coalition of the Hall Chamber of Commerce as reported by and the Gainesville Times.

The ARC’s Chief of the Environmental Planning Division also attempted to blame metro Atlanta’s water supply problems on Jimmy Carter, Flint River famers, and selected downstream stakeholders.

Historical Detour: Governor Carter did indeed pull the plug and reject an Army Corps of Engineers’ plan to build the Sprewell Bluff multiple purpose dam on the Flint River back in the early 1970s as Stevens alluded to.  However, he did so – in the context of the inflation crisis and calls to cut state and federal spending – after running a simple cost-benefit analysis where he discovered the numbers did not add up.  The Sprewell Bluff project was officially deauthorized (p. 193) in 1986, not under President Carter’s watch but during the Ronald Reagan administration.

Today’s ACF Stakeholders: Without Flint River dams, according to Stevens, irrigation-farmers pull so much water out of the ground and the Flint River that the Chattahoochee River (and Lake Lanier) has to make up the difference for required flows at the Florida state line.  But other stakeholders also require ACF water.  For example, Alabama Power’s nuclear Plant Farley, located well above the Florida state line, ultimately uses Chattahoochee water released from Lake Lanier.  Stephens also blamed endangered species for the required 5,000 cfs release from Jim Woodruff Dam, but according to a Congressional Research Report (p. CRS-15), Gulf Power’s Plant Scholz requires the Apalachicola to flow between 4,200 and 5,000 cfs in order to generate electricity.  Both plants are managed by subsidiaries of the Atlanta-based Southern Company.

In the end, Stevens bombastic rhetoric may do more than inflame cross-border relations and perceptions.  Coming from an Atlanta Regional Commission representative, such commentary will also continue to fuel a “Two Georgia’s” civil war over water.

-Chris Manganiello

4 Comments leave one →
  1. January 27, 2012 5:32 pm

    Excellent research on the part of the Georgia River Network staff!

  2. Jdinmacon permalink
    January 27, 2012 10:27 pm

    I think he meant “Georgia ruins the chattahoochee”


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