The $30 million price tag on a drought declaration

The Los Angeles Times today noted that Georgia is in the middle of a brutal drought – especially in southwest Georgia — that remains officially unofficial:

Environmentalists, scientists and farmers point to places like the Flint [River], as well as reservoir levels and stream and rainfall data as proof of drought. Republican Gov. Nathan Deal and much of the business community contend that there is no drought. Unlike his predecessor, Deal has yet to declare one.

The state’s resistance to more drastic measures stems from its desire to protect its business-friendly image, critics say. “Atlanta is the brightest symbol of the ‘New South,’ and the Southern miracle depends on the use of natural resources,” said Gordon Rogers, executive director of Flint Riverkeeper, an environmental group. “And the key resource is water.”

A drought declaration would indeed allow the state to impose tougher water conservation restrictions. The 2007-2008 drought declaration by Gov. Sonny Perdue had a substantial economic impact. Again, from the Times:

Along with the recession, the watering ban pummeled one of the state’s largest industries, so-called urban agriculture, which includes turf grass and landscaping, leading to layoffs and bankruptcies.

This time, the $8-billion-a-year industry was spared what Georgia Agribusiness Council President Bryan Tolar calls the “knee-jerk reaction” of the watering ban.

But there is more to the lack of a drought declaration than that, according to Judson Turner, director of the state Environmental Protection Division. One reason, he said, is that – with conservation measures in place, and the water war going Georgia’s way – the state is in a more comfortable position than it was five years ago.

But there is cash involved, too. About $30 million in direct state funds.

Take the aforementioned Flint River basin, which starts at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and flows into the Florida panhandle. Said Turner in a telephone interview on Monday:

”In the southwest part of the state, you have a Flint River Drought Protection Act. When you declare a drought, it triggers a lottery that we used to pay for, for people to voluntarily acreage out of irrigation and be paid for with One Georgia funds that we didn’t have.

“We projected, with commodity prices where they are right now – which is very high, that nobody would have volunteered acreage unless you got the pot sweet enough, you’d have spent about $30 million.”

The program is about a decade old, and early on was a source of graft, Turner said – with farmers claiming to take acreage out of circulation that was covered with trees. But he also said that the program in the end didn’t work.

“It wouldn’t have made sense to spend that kind of money and not have any results. It wasn’t just a budgetary decision. It just didn’t work,” he said. “It’s not in the right place, doesn’t produce the right result, and you’ve just wasted $30 million.”

The Deal administration is working on revisions to the drought protection act that may abandon the lottery in favor of a crop insurance program.

Which could make the declaration of droughts less expensive – at least to the state.

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

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22 comments Add your comment

red herring

September 17th, 2012
6:18 pm

middle georgia hasn’t had enough rain for the past two years— farmers (dairy esp.) shouldn’t be allowed to use all these subsidies and then the farmers who get ruined by droughts not be able to get some relief. the large farms and dairy farms pay into lobbyists who in turn get the money back —the small farmer who gets ruined when he doesn’t have enough money to irrigate, etc is the one who feels the pain. the big farms and dairy farms that get subsidized to not plant crops and to pay for “lost hay, silage, etc” should be ashamed of how much they “milk” the taxpayer for.

GaBlue

September 17th, 2012
6:19 pm

Perhaps Gov. Shady should borrow Gov. Sonny’s drought checklist:

(1) Pretend there’s no drought until your own source of drinking water is a few weeks from drying up.
(2) Pray for rain.
(3) Sue Alabama.

This BRILLIANCE brought to you by the Georgia GOP and the citizens who refuse to inform themselves beyond which letter a candidate places beside his name.

Kris

September 17th, 2012
6:42 pm

@ Gablue…that’s good,may I add to

# 2 Pray for rain….God laughed

Yet another nail in the coffin of economy in the great state known as Last in education, unemployment and by golly FIRST IN POLITICAL STUPIDY and CORRUPTION.

ARE you proud natie dirty DEAL?

td

September 17th, 2012
8:08 pm

No one lives in SW Georgia.

hiram

September 17th, 2012
8:30 pm

@kris
Deal is the Sonny sequel – Sonny II, and given the Georgia electorate’s Honey Boo Boo mentality, there’s probably a Sonny III and Sonny IV in our future…

“…the Lake Lanier Island’s Development Authority – a public-private partnership chaired by former Commissioner of the Department of Natural Resources Lonice Barrett – will develop a water supply well so they do not have to buy water from the City of Gainesville to operate “resort facilities” including hotels, a golf course and a “water park,” according to the GWSP application. The lease to operate the resort facilities on state land is held by Virgil Williams, a one-time advisor to former Gov. Zell Miller and campaign contributor to Gov. Deal.

As Georgia legislators bow to anti-tax interests (see epic TSPLOST failure) and fail to fix the region’s transportation woes; as they slash education spending and cut the Department of Natural Resources’ budget (think state parks, like Watson Mill Bridge) – the GWSP will dump $4.5 million into an exclusive water-resort and more than $80 million into consultants’ pockets for projects that may never produce a drop of drinking water for numerous financial and environmental reasons.

Gov. Deal may be a campaign promise keeper, but his methods – while legal – appear to reward campaign contributors and their “kin” while leaving the rest of Georgia’s taxpayers and municipal water customers indebted like the great unwashed.”

http://gawaterwire.wordpress.com/

honested

September 17th, 2012
9:31 pm

Let’s not forget the gondad grasp the turf growers, salesmen and maintenance people have on this process as well.
There have been a succession of Bills before the General Assembly to allow homeowners to select drought tolerant landscaping (even if it runs afoul of the great minds in their Home Owners Association).
Such an allowance would dig into the pockets of the turf growers who would in turn (to coin a phrase) ‘turn off the spigot’ to the Gold Dome Society.
So, we continue to waste water to grow grass that shouldn’t be here.
But the legislature gets paid.

Kris

September 17th, 2012
10:04 pm

@ hiram
The truth be known (dirty double dip deal…crooked…etc). This Glendon governor (term used loosely) was probably a deal cooked up by sonny dodo and barns…just sayin..

Kris

September 17th, 2012
10:06 pm

opps my bad should read ….boondoggle of a governor (term used loosely)

double

September 18th, 2012
1:22 am

Balfour for Governor.Creeks rising.

rawmilkdrinker

September 18th, 2012
5:35 am

As one of a longline of native Georgians I am beginning to, shudder the thought, think that it’s time to resurrect General Sherman and give him a box of matches and a map of the Capital building!

DeborahinAthens

September 18th, 2012
6:32 am

td, are you friggin stupid? Do you have nothing better to do than make stupid, inane comments on blogs? A lot of agriculture goes on in SW Georgia, it might not be food for your sorry A$$, but much of the GDP in this state comes from peanuts, soybeans, cotton,etc., much of it grown in SW Georgia. You have to be one of the most ignorant posters among all the combined blog posters combined. I am not a farmer, but appreciate the hard work and risk these people live under every day. Eventually, when you have no food on the table, or your roast chicken costs $13 you illegal immigrant haters, cut farm subsidies supporters, don’t believe there is a drought deniers, agriculture haters, those that think the world revolves around the latest Apple IPhone, will have a rude awakening. If you don’t have Microsoft Windows 8, if you don’t have an IPhone, you can live. Without water and food, your sorry butts will shrink and die. At least that’s one way to solve the obesity problem.

Buckhead Boy

September 18th, 2012
6:50 am

I appreciate the opinions of lawyer Turner; but maybe if he had some prior experience with agribusiness, meteorology or environmental science, I might find them more meaningful.

hiram

September 18th, 2012
7:15 am

See how this works, boys and girls…

“…the Lake Lanier Island’s Development Authority – a public-private partnership… – will develop a water supply well so they do not have to buy water from the City of Gainesville to operate “resort facilities” including hotels, a golf course and a “water park,” according to the GWSP application. The lease to operate the resort facilities on state land is held by Virgil Williams, a one-time advisor to former Gov. Zell Miller and campaign contributor to Gov. Deal.”
http://www.gawaterwire.wordpress.com

C2009000086
Nathan Deal for Governor,Inc.
Nathan Deal
Virgil Williams
2076 W Park Place Blvd
Stone Mountain, GA 30087-3530
Businessman
Self Employed 07/24/2010
Monetary
Run-Off Primary
2010 $3,600.00

C2009000086
Nathan Deal for Governor,Inc.
Nathan Deal
Virgil Williams
2076 W Park Place Blvd
Stone Mountain, GA 30087-3530
Businessman
Self Employed 08/18/2010
Monetary
General
2010 $6,100.00

hiram

September 18th, 2012
7:22 am

Missed this one – different name, same address…

C2009000086
Nathan Deal for Governor,Inc.
Nathan Deal
Williams Companies State Political Fund
2076 W Park Place Blvd
Stone Mountain, GA 30087-
N/A
N/A 09/22/2010
Monetary
General
2010 $6,100.00

ethics.ga.gov

yellowdog

September 18th, 2012
8:19 am

no drought???? has anyone been up to lake lanier lately………12 feet of dried sand? give me a break.

saltine

September 18th, 2012
8:29 am

The Flint River Drought Protection Act drought declaration is a particular statutory requirement (12-5-540 et.seq.), applying only to “specific locations” in the Flint River basin, and must be declared by March 1 of any year. That highly specific declaration would trigger operation of that Act’s subsidy auction provisions, for which there are no funds now appropriated. This declaration is unrelated to droughts and declarations thereof elsewhere in the state, which are not subject to the Flint River Act. The EPD Director’s claim of a $30 million expense is highly conditional, and spurious any time after March 1.

sheepdawg

September 18th, 2012
8:30 am

“As one of a longline of native Georgians I am beginning to, shudder the thought, think that it’s time to resurrect General Sherman and give him a box of matches and a map of the Capital building!”

Amen. We elected a crook for governor, and he’s doing us proud.

No Longer Republican

September 18th, 2012
9:03 am

Thank you Deborah in Athens for enlightening the idiot TD. I grew up in SW Georgia and the farmers there are hurting. By the way TD — alot of the folks in SWGA are right-wing “christians” just like you. They have been sitting on the church pews judging people for 30 years…and not doing a damn thing to help…just like you.

truth be told

September 18th, 2012
9:52 am

freedom will prevail in the end.VOTE REPULICAN!

hiram

September 18th, 2012
9:53 am

@ no longer republican
td represents the typical Georgia voter’s mentality level. Unfortunately, current reality TV shows, like Honey Boo Boo, and Small Town Security, are a fair representation of Georgia’s citizens.

Tom Barksdale

September 18th, 2012
10:19 am

What intrigues me the most about this article, besides the immediate issue, is its revelation of more government subsidies–also known as welfare–that Georgia Republicans send flooding into favored special interests–all the while proclaiming their staunch commitment to free enterprise and savaging subsidies that might help the average Georgian. The Republican hypocrisy and dishonesty is so flagrant, it boggles the human mind. Meanwhile, Georgia’s educational and transportation systems–the real engines of future growth–are starved for funds at the hands of these “cut my taxes and get government off my back” hypocrites.

R

September 18th, 2012
6:30 pm

@DeborahinAthens
“Eventually, when you have no food on the table, or your roast chicken costs $13 you illegal immigrant haters.”

You have valid points about the AG Industry up until you stepped in it with the ILLEGAL bit…

The only AG operations that depend on the illegals are skirting the market rules. Those farms aren’t charging less to consumers than the farms that use legal labor.

They just stick the general public with some of THEIR overhead costs…
So wash your boots off now and get back in the fight.