Perdue vows multi-pronged attack on water issue

BY KRISTI E. SWARTZ
kswartz@ajc.com

Gov. Sonny Perdue said the state would take a multi-pronged attack in challenging a federal judge’s decision that prohibits Georgia from using Lake Lanier as its primary water supply.

Flanked by business and civic leaders on the steps of the governor’s mansion, Perdue backed away from immediately trying to come to an agreement with the governors of Florida and Alabama — saying instead he wants to make Congress understand that Georgia’s water issue should be one of national concern.

“Water supply is a national issue,” Perdue said.

Standing next to Perdue was Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, appearing publicly for the first time since having spinal surgery.

Georgia, Florida and Alabama have been fighting for 19 years over how to use water that comes from the Apalachiocola-Chattahoochee-Flint (ACF) river basin. A judge ruled last Friday that U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been illegally reallocating water from Lake Lanier to meet metro Atlanta’s needs.

He gave the states three years to work out a plan, which must be approved by Congress.

Perdue met Thursday morning with business and government leaders to discuss the judge’s ruling and what it meant for the state. Speaking on behalf of the business community, Perdue said executives were not frustrated with his plans.

“They understand the gravity of the situation,” he said.

Perdue announced an “impact team” that includes business officials, local government leaders and representatives from state agencies. He has chosen Georgia Power President and CEO Michael Garrett to head up that team.

Georgia Power is owned by Atlanta-based Southern Co., which also owns utilities in Alabama and the Florida Panhandle.

Perdue reiterated his plans to “vigorously” appeal the judge’s decision while also looking for other ways to get and store water.

39 comments Add your comment

Owen Masterson

July 23rd, 2009
1:01 pm

Let’s hope that praying is not part of solution this time. Real problems need real solutions.

d

July 23rd, 2009
1:10 pm

Let’s find a way to just divert water from the Chattahoochee altogether and then we don’t have to worry about sharing at all. We can build a new Lake Lanier and rebuild the area that’s now underwater….. Oh well, in a perfect world, right?

CharlieForsyth

July 23rd, 2009
1:14 pm

Has anyone other than Mr. Garrett been named to this Impact Team, does anyone know?

Gwinnetter

July 23rd, 2009
2:04 pm

Why on EARTH don’t we start negotiations again?!? We’ll lose an appeal!

Vince

July 23rd, 2009
2:13 pm

There are so many myths being brought forth in this issue. Can’t the AJC use its research and influence to spread the truth?

Myth 1 – Atlanta uses more than its fair share of water. In truth, Atlanta does not CONSUME much water from either Lake Lanier or the Chattahoochee. Most of the water we use goes down drains and back into the river system. Water for washing clothes and dishes, showers, toilet flushes. etc all goes back into the Chattahoochee after being cleaned. Even some of the water we drink, when you think about it, finds its way back to the river. The only water that is actually consumed is water that is used for outside watering and you know we haven’t been able to do much of that over the past three years. Just think about it.

Myth 2 – Florida and Alabama aren’t getting their fair share of water in the Chattahoochee. The truth is that the vast majority of water that is consumed from the Chattahoochee/Apalachicola/Flint rivers is consumed south of Columbus. Farmers pull out an enormous amount of water for irrigation and the huge nuclear power plant in Eufaula, Alabama uses a great deal for cooling. All of that water is lost and DOES NOT find its way back to the rivers.

Myth 3 The low water levels in Apalachicola are due to explosive and unplanned growth in Atlanta. Again, Atlantans really don’t CONSUME that much water from the system…..and who do Floridians think they are to chastise anyone for explosive growth!? The low water levels in the Apalachicola Bay were due to overuse of the system by the nuclear power plant and the farmers in the area during the drought. During the drought of 06 – 08 the Army Corps of Engineers kept the river level in Florida to almost twice of what it would have been during a drought if there were no dams and no manmade interference in the system.

Myth 4 – This is all about water. False. The majority of it is economic. People outside of Atlanta don’t look upon our city with great fondness and they are jealous of our growth. Riley and Crist just want to hurt Atlanta’s reputation and hope that growth can be diverted to Alabama and the Florida panhandle.

Myth 5 – Lanier holds all of the water for sustaining the river. Again, this is false. Lakes Eufaula and Seminole were kept at very high levels during the drought. And, guess what, after the ruling last week, officials in Dothan, Alabama were excited as they have plans to build a reservoir that pulls off of the Chattahoochee in order to handle their “needs due to explosive growth in the area.”

Myth 6 – Georgians have lost their bargaining position. Maybe. However, Atlantans spend a great deal of money in the Florida panhandle and on Florida seafood. Perhaps if we boycott Florida tourism and Florida seafood we can at least show people that we won’t spend money in a state that has so little regard for us. I have already scrapped my Labor Day plans for Panama City Beach. I cannot imagine spending money in a place where the people want to destroy my way of life and my property values. Doesn’t anyone else see it that way??

Myth 7 – Lanier was never meant to be a water supply for Atlanta. Georgia provided plenty of evidence that water supply was an intended use of the lake. They even had construction era pictures of signs at Buford Dam that stated the lake was being built, in part, for water supply. The judge only considered “legislative” proof.

Finally, I am no big fan of any politician, but I think Perdue is at least fighting for us. He can’t call for a boycott of Florida but ordinary citizens can get one started. I believe he just doesn’t want to give away the cow for a few mythical beans.

A Florida vacation in your plans? JUST DON’T GO!

Vince

July 23rd, 2009
2:15 pm

Just boycott Florida. Who wants to spend money in a state that has such little disregard for you or your way of life?

JAMES W.

July 23rd, 2009
2:42 pm

I agree that all Georgians need to boycott spending and money in Flordia and Alabama. If the Gov. of Flordia and Alabama are so nonsensitive to the fact that Georgia needs water just like Alabama and Florida needs water than Georgians don’t need to spend any money there. Drinking water is vital to survival and should need be taken so lightly. Ther is five million lives. that depends on this water.

[...] Read more details here on our Gold Dome blog. [...]

Jane

July 23rd, 2009
3:25 pm

Why can’t Georgia/Atlanta just start paying for the water? Residence and Businesses have to pay their bills. So why doesn’t Georgia and Atlanta. WHY does our Governor continue to pay lawyers for something he will never win or is becuase these lawyers are his friends and he is trying to keep them all in their fancy houses and cars. The law is the law. WAKE UP GEORGIAN’S stop supporting him wasting our money. Let’s make him resolve this issue NOW.

Geezguys

July 23rd, 2009
3:29 pm

Oh, the greedy folk have their knickers in a wad. You betcha Florida and Alabama have a disregard for a way of life patterned on a pig at a trough.

I’m sure any boycott will be as effective as the one right-wingers launched on Disney. Such miserable folk don’t venture out of their little circle enough to understand they’re a tiny minority.

Randy

July 23rd, 2009
3:49 pm

AL & FL have no problem with us dumping crap in the water, but they don’t want us to drink it. Does any of this make any sense to any one??

Michelle

July 23rd, 2009
4:13 pm

Puffing yourself up and attacking is not going to improve Georgia’s bargaining position, it will only weaken it more, if that is possible. It will also harden the other parties in this drama. Maybe Purdue et al better be nice, go with hat in hand, ask forgiveness and hope Florida and Alabama don’t hold a grudge.

Saul Good

July 23rd, 2009
4:36 pm

CONSERVE. The one part that “conservatives” forgot. That comes to use of water and all other natural resources. It goes for spending as well.

Stop wasting water. When you turn on your spigot one day and all that comes out is air you’ll wish you had every drop you ever wasted on the worst invention by mankind… the “Suburban” LAWN.

Vince, you’re wrong about saying that ALL the water gets recycled and put back into the lake. If that was the case, explain the lake levels during the drought. Most of the northern suburbs are still on septic tanks which means that ZERO water is put back in by those residents…

newkid

July 23rd, 2009
4:59 pm

The concept of an ‘impact team’ is interesting, but don’t you wonder why we didn’t assemble an ‘impact team’ in 1992 to work with similarly constructed ‘impact teams’ from Alabama and Florida to resolve this matter in a manner that recognized the inter-connectedness of the economies of states within the region? Continuing to pursue this matter in the current manner will not produce any ‘winners’ within our multi-state region; we’ll all be losers. My light doesn’t shine very bright, but even I recognize this.

BabsTolstoy

July 23rd, 2009
5:14 pm

Vince is long winded and not very bright. All circumstantial, no hard references, bloviating. Tell it to the Judge. Florida and Alabama are willing to work with Georgia but it has to be civil and respectful which to date has been lacking. That does not help Georgia’s cause and they are not in a position to dictate the terms.

rdhood

July 23rd, 2009
7:04 pm

All of metro Atlanta, and especially Gwinnett, have been in an 18 year water grab with expectation that whatever the outcome, they would be able to hold onto the water at the level that they obtained up to the resolution of this issue.

If you are stealing cable, though, do you get to keep the cable service that you’ve been stealing when you finally get caught? NO.

Atlanta will never again be able to grow at the rate of the 80’s/90’s/00’s. EVER. We simply do not have the water to fuel that growth. Get used to it. It will mean we will have a nicer place to live, and have to liver smarter with respect to water.

Vince

July 23rd, 2009
7:42 pm

Babs Tolstoy…I can assure you Vince is no dummy. Check out any site on the web dedicated to water usage along the Chattahoochee. Try the US Geological Survey site. Atlanta does not CONSUME much water….they consume much less than the power plants in Alabama, north Florida and south Georgia. The Governors of Alabama and Florida are just much better at spreading false propaganda than Perdue.

What dummy thinks the northern suburbs are on septic tanks?!

Perhaps a boycott of Florida tourism won’t be felt, but on principal I will not spend money in a state that wants to cut off my water and prevents me from using the rainfall from my county.

Vince

July 23rd, 2009
8:42 pm

Saul…..Why is a suburban lawn worse than an urban or intown one. They look the same to me? Also, I didn’t say ALL the water is recycled. I said “most” of it. On average the Atlanta area withdraws 450 million gallons of water a day and puts back 250 million gallons.

Babs..I didn’t know I was writing a term paper that needed citations. As far as water usage along the Chattahoochee you can check numerous sites. The US Geologic Survey site is a good one. Just do a search for something like “water consumption along the Chattahoochee.” The AJC did a gereat investigation a nd article about this a couple of years ago. Sorry, I don’t remember the date, but I can find it if you aren’t good at research.

As far as Dothan planning a new reservoir in part due to the judge’s ruling? Check their local paper, The Dothan Eagle from last weekend. They have a website.

It isn’t about water? Well, check out the conservation methods put in place in north Flordia and Alabama during the drought. I’ll save you the trouble of looking. There were none.

Lanier was built for water supply? Read the judge’s decision. He acknowledges Georgia’s evidence including the pictures and stated that he would only look at legislative action.

You see, Babs, if you do just a little research you will see this issue in a new light.

Saul and GeezGuys……If you get beyond the smokescreens put up by Florida and Alabama you will feel the same way I do.It’s those states that are being greedy and “grabbing” the water.

Mark

July 23rd, 2009
8:52 pm

Vince is correct about metro Atlanta using much less water than the folks south of Columbus.

I agree that it is dumb for us in the metro area to just get slapped around when we have done nothing wrong,,,,,and then go do business with the folks who are trying to put us into economic ruin. A boycott may get us nowhere, but the folks in Destin won’t be getting my money come Labor Day.

Get some chutzpah folks!

PCBRules!

July 23rd, 2009
8:56 pm

My roots run deep in Florida. It is my home state, my family owns large tracts of land just south of Dothan and I and all of my children have had their pictures made in the monkey’s hand in PCB. We have vacationed there since the ’50’s.

With that said, I am so disappointed in Governor Crist. I cannot imagine why he would lead a drive to keep Georgians (I have lived in Atlanta for 30 years now) from using our own water. I cannot imagine a person being so….unfair.

Geezguys

July 23rd, 2009
10:05 pm

Vince, I invite you to take a dip in the Chattahoochee South of Atlanta. You might find out just how much of metro Atlanta uses septic tanks. It was 26% in 2006. That’s according to the Chamber of Commerce, BTW, and they consider it a negative factor in water consumption.

Metro Atlanta is a poster child for unrestricted, unplanned growth. You can hardly blame Florida and Alabama for staking a claim to water to which we feel completely entitled. We show no inclination to conserve water, and what we do return is more and more polluted. It’s not “our” water, either. If things worked that way legally the entire U.S. would be in a h3ll of a mess.

The USGS does have some interesting data but if you read the fact sheet below “…lack of reliable water-use data is a major hindrance to water planning and management in Georgia.” We are flying by the seat of our pants. How reassuring.

http://naedacf.pbworks.com/f/fs2007-3034,+USGS+Fact+sheet.pdf

Ralph

July 24th, 2009
11:07 am

Although the headline of the article says it is a multi-pronged attack, it is a single pronged lobbying effort from multiple sources. Congress is the ONLY hope to resolve this, and it has shown a perpetual lack of backbone on this issue. Look for Atlanta/ Georgia to make a weak 11th hour (years from now) deal with Alabama and Florida out of necessity. In the meantime, lots of chest pounding.

BabsTolstoy

July 24th, 2009
4:13 pm

Vince,
Of course this is not a term paper but you are trying to sway. Specifics help. And by the way what difference does it make about the percentage of water drawn for Atlanta? Does a lower percentage change the fact that it is wrong in that it adversely affects those downstream relying on the same resource? What percentage would be acceptable? Should those of us downstream allow Atlanta to determine that percentage? Of course not. A line has to be drawn in the sand. As has been shown Atlanta will simply take what it wants until somebody screams for them to stop. That is what has happened.

Vince

July 24th, 2009
5:15 pm

Babs and Geez….My point is that Florida and Alabama, and even people in South Georgia try to portray Atlanta as the great water guzzler that is the source of all problems downsteam. Metro Atlanta does not consume nearly as much water as the folks downsteam. Do you know how much water a nuclear power plant and coal fired power plants use? It is astounding. I would feel completely different about this if the folks in Apalachicola and Dothan said something like, “Gee, we really need to hatch a plan that will be fair to everyone.” Instead, they simply imply that Atlantans are wasteful and the source of all water problems. Instead they want to cut us off from water while they plan new reservoirs along the hooch. It’s simply an incredible smokescreen in their attempt to kill Atlanta.

Vince

July 24th, 2009
5:17 pm

Geez…Glad you referred to the USGS factsheet. Did you look at the map that shows consumption along the system? It’s a real eye opener, isn’t it?

Mark

July 24th, 2009
6:45 pm

Boycotts don’t work and threats don’t work and its plain to see that paying lawyers for years does not work SO, Instead of fighting and making a wasteful use of money (paying Lawyers) Why don’t All three states sit down a figure out what a new resevior (that could benefit all 3 ) would cost and just split it 3 ways. Everyone involved would benefit. A so called win, win, win. And it may even create a new fishing hole that Sonny can say FISH Georgia!!!

PCBRules!

July 24th, 2009
7:29 pm

Two years ago several of the counties around town floated the idea of building news reservoirs. You may recall that Alabama Governor Riley said he would fight such moves.

Vince

July 24th, 2009
7:33 pm

Mark…. Boycotts may not work, but just for me personally I cannot see myself spending money in a state where the Governor and the citizens have such little regard for me that they want to cut off my water. Sure they love my money, but they care nothing about my welfare or my property value…..so isn’t it a bit insane to pad their pockets????

Tar Heel Bred bleeds Tar Heel Blue

July 26th, 2009
6:19 am

At this point, Gov. Perdue has no choice but to appeal Magnuson’s decision, all the way to the Supreme Court if need be, to make sure that Metro Atlanta’s taps don’t run dry in 2012. There’s no doubt that Florida and Alabama are conspiring to kill Atlanta’s growth by cutting-off the city’s water supply. It’s to Florida’s and Alabama’s advantage to make Atlanta less desirable to existing and relocating commerce and industry and divert growth to their states by creating a New Orleans-Katrina-type situation in North Georgia.

Choke-off the water to Atlanta, drive the city into financial ruin and reap the benefits of Atlanta’s collapse from lack of water. Create a modern-day “Atlantis” deep inland and both Florida and Alabama become economic powerhouses on the strength of Atlanta’s demise. FL and AL aren’t interested in an equitable solution to the water wars, their only interest is in cutting-off Atlanta from it’s own water supply, making the city vanish off the face of the earth and spitting the leftovers amongst themselves.

FL and AL don’t just want Atlanta’s water, they want to BE Atlanta and will stop at nothing to bring a bitter and sudden end to Atlanta’s long streak of growth and success. These water fights manuevers are nothing more than a “prosperity grab” for FL and AL.

BabsTolstoy

July 26th, 2009
1:38 pm

Tar Heel,
That’s hilarious. The North Koreans would be envious of your paranoia. Next time invoke yellow cake and mushrooms clouds, that seems to work for some.

Who is Vince?

July 26th, 2009
9:36 pm

Vince is dead on. This has never been about water; its about growth in ATL and Alabama trying to slow it down. And they DO want to BE Atlanta – why the hell, I’ll never know.

Also, check out water conservation in the Chatt Basin during this drought. Places like Phenix City, AL; Eufaula, AL; Dothan, AL. NOt a single one of them had a rationing mechanism (even/odd etc). And Crisp and Goober (Bob Riley) are blowing smoke about ATL being unfair.

One more point, the Corps of Engineers in 1989 had a Post Authorization Change Report completed. This was a document to go to Congress to have Lake Lanier re-allocated (re-authorized). AL sued and the Corps started this ridiculous negotiation, rather than go to court and then send the report to Congress. In 1989, there was a very powerful Congressman from Jasper, AL named Tom Bevill. Bevill was on a committee which controlled the Corps of Engineers budget and they were afraid of him. These strategy decisions were made in the Mobile District of the Corps of Engineers. Bevill has since died and if we keep negotiating we will all be dead before its over.

What the judge essentially told the Corps to do last week is to prepare a Post Authorization Change Report and send it to Congress. They (AL-GA-FL) have negotiated for 20 years; 3 more years won’t matter. I think the judge should have given them 12 months. Goober has made one good point in his whinning. This IS a Federal project – not a GA, AL, or FL project. A freaking Federal project – do a good report on water use and the value of water and allocate the water to the one with the greatest value – whether it be drinking water in GA; oysters; or a nuclear power plant. The truth will truly set you free.

And DONT GO TO GULF SHORES or FLORIDA.

And Babs, you need to grow up. This IS, at times, a mean world you live in and Goober is not your friend.

rdhood

July 27th, 2009
11:55 am

At this point, there are only two avenues to resolve this situation: mediation with Florida, Georgia and Alabama or a Congressional intervention. Neither seems likely.

Alabama have nothing to gain by giving one drop of water to Georgia or the Atlanta Metro Area. They don’t even have to be reasonable… they can refuse to meet with Perdue and shut down that avenue. Even if Georgia said, “just give us enough water to meet our current needs”, they can and probably will refuse.

The other alternative is to take this issue to Congress. Of the three states, Florida has the most Congressional pull and (therefore) is on the side likely to prevail.

Georgia is out of options. While it seems far fetched to believe that the taps for 3 million people will be shut off in 3 years (resulting in a Katrina like devastation of the Atlanta metro area), there doesn’t appear to be an option that will resolve this issue in Georgia’s favor… even for simple drinking water for current residents.

Don

July 28th, 2009
7:00 am

Dear Sonny,

No, water supply is NOT a national issue. Water supply is an issue which results from failure to plan and assuming that since a stream flows by you, you can use it all. Your local governments keep issuing building permits and didn’t undertake any conservation measures until drought hit a few years ago……sounds like a local problem to me.
And before you go wasting the taxpayers’ money on a lawsuit, you might want to figure out the law’s not very much in your favor on this one. Be smart, get an agreement, learn to live with your share of the water instead of expecting it’s all yours.

Trusslady

July 29th, 2009
4:24 pm

Do you people really believe that Purdue will do anything about the water? He has had seven years to work on this issue, and has done nothing. He’ll figure out some delaying tactics until he is out of office next year and let it fall to the next govenor to fix (sounds vaguely Bush like doesn’t it?).

lakeman

July 29th, 2009
9:45 pm

OK, I’ll admit it. I’m not nearly as smart as anybody reading/writing all of this. So, go ahead and call me stupid and an idiot, BUT. . . I do have a plan, that is feasible, and could work if we want it to.

A solution to fix the water issue: Congress, back in the 1800’s, set the Georgia / Tennessee boarder on the 35th parallel. A bad survey was quickly accepted by Tennessee, while Georgia NEVER accepted the survey. For over 100 years, Georgia has disputed that survey. The 35th parallel runs directly through Nickajack Lake on the Tennessee River. Congress set the line. A bad survey does not change what Congress set.

I feel that Georgia should quit claim any disputed property to Tennessee in return for a tap into the Tenn River. We could then use I-75 right of way for the pipeline down to a split with one leg going east into Lanier watershed, and a second leg continuing down I-75 into the Allatoona watershed.

This plan effectively ends the decades old Water Wars dispute between the southern states. Here’s how:

Tennessee wins: They have their disputed land free and clear. The tap is a few miles from AL. Tenn has enjoyed full use of the Tenn River resource by this point. They won’t miss a drop. No more disputes with Georgia.

Alabama wins: They won’t miss the miniscule withdrawal. The Tenn River is huge. They will gain a forever full river system along the Chattahoochee River along the Alabama boarder with Georgia. Tons of water for their Dothan plant. No more disputes with Georgia.

Florida wins: Florida will forever have water flows keeping their sturgeon and mussels watered. Florida can now relax. No more disputes with Georgia.

This pipeline project is tiny compared to similar projects in Alaska (oil & gas pipelines) and Los Angeles (drinking water aquifers). This pipeline solves the water war between the states and provides several benefits for all of the states. This project would put a lot of folks back to work, and Lanier would be full indefinitely. Win, Win, Win.

State Senator David Shafer, Dist 48, has been working on this issue for years. Perdue should re-open this issue. Remember, Congress set the line on the 35th parallel. The subsequent survey was wrong. (I’ll bet somebody paid off the surveyors to keep the river in Tenn.)

[...] Atlanta Journal Constitution: Perdue vows multi-pronged attack on water issue [...]

sara, ga

July 31st, 2009
2:41 pm

Why is he having the head of Georgia power lead the impact team?! This one-sided team will ignore science; not engage in discussions and will hurt Georgia.

Where are the scientists? The academics? The Riverkeepers?

Grumpy

August 3rd, 2009
1:34 pm

For all of you who want to blame Florida and Alabama for this problem we have, you need to re-adjust your vision. The real problem is a Georgia Governo wghio sat on his ass for the past 7 years without the slightest hint of a comprehensive water-use/water -resource plan. His version of doing something about Atlanta’s (and Georgia’s water) problems is a convening a prayer group on the steps of the Captiol and calling uponthe All Mighty to give us rain. Even those prayers went unanswered. We could have gotten the no worse of a result by asking a tribal shaman or medicine man to offer the same prayers.

This is yet another example of Perdue’s total lack of vision. (He does have great eyesight when it comes to spotting a great land deal that will benefit him and his family at taxpayers’ expense, I’ll give him that much.)

No vision on water, none on transportation and absolutely none one education. Most governors want to leave some thing as a legacy for their tenure. Perdue’s will be his “Gone Fishin’” program which was purchased on the backs of about 80 eledrly veterans displaced from a soldier’s home in Milledgeville.

What a sensitive and sympathetic man our Governor is.

Richard Johnston

August 3rd, 2009
4:18 pm

“The services rendered by the Mayor of Atlanta for the Buford Dam project by traveling to Washington, DC and lobbying Congress on behalf of the Buford Dam project constitutes a monetary expenditure on the projects behalf and can be construed as the basis of partnership in the Project, and subsequent rights to it’s use.”