Posts Tagged ‘Water’

“Democrat” is Not a Bad Word in Muscogee County

October 24, 2010

Election 2010 is upon us, about a week away.  If the polls are right, Republicans will be in control in Washington and Georgia, but not necessarily in Muscogee County.  Since Republicans maintain a high-profile  in the county, you might think they are the majority. Look at recent election results and you’ll see they are not.  Muscogee County regularly goes for the Democratic nominee for president.  And locally, the last sheriff and district attorney races make the point. 

I was reading a letter to the Ledger-Enquirer that made a big deal about the writer’s candidate for mayor being a “conservative” and accusing others of being “Obama Democrats.”   That person just doesn’t understand the reality of Muscogee County politics.  Being a Democrat is a plus in county-wide races, not a liability.  Besides, some Democrats are also conservatives, especially when it comes to matters fiscal.

Yes, Republicans may gain control of the Congress and retain control of the Georgia legislature.  The end result, though,  probably will not be all that bad for Democrats.  If Republicans are in control and things don’t get a lot better than they are right now, they probably won’t stay in control for very long.  But, then, in Georgia,  just look at the shape the state is in after 8 years of Republican control, with water, transportation and education problems worse not better, and despite that, they are poised to remain in control.  Surely, over time, Georgia voters will wake up if things continue on the down slope.  Surely. Surely?

Ah, but in Washington, they’ll be able to blame lack of progress on President Obama vetoes, some will say. That tactic didn’t work with President Clinton. He got reelected.  There is a very good chance it won’t work with President Obama, either.  

Meanwhile, don’t let all of the partisan rancor upset you.  Just have a good meal at the Taste of Lemon. Never heard of the Taste of Lemon?  Well, stay tuned.

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The Tennessee River Solution

June 13, 2010
ATLANTA ATTORNEY SAYS THE U.S. SUPREME COURT WILL INEVITABLY END UP SETTLING THE   BORDER DISPUTE BETWEEN GEORGIA AND TENNESSEE

John Ross Bridge spanning the Tennessee River, Chattanooga, TN

 Atlanta attorney Brad Carver, who works with Governor Sonny Perdue and others on water matters, says tapping into the Tennessee River is the most practical solution to the Atlanta area’s water shortage problem.  Georgia maintains the state border at Nickajack was incorrectly surveyed in 1818, and the correct survey would put a section of the Tennessee in Georgia. 

Atlanta attorney Brad Carver, speaking to the Rotary Club of Columbus, Columbus, GA (Photo by Jim Cawthorne, Camera1)

Carver told Columbus Rotarians that Tennessee is already benefiting economically from Georgia’s water problem.  Prospective industries are becoming wary of North Georgia because of the problem, and some have already decided to locate in Tennessee instead. That’s one of the reasons, maybe the biggest one, that prompts Tennessee to tell Georgia to forget about it. 

 While Georgia is trying to work out something with Tennessee, Carver told me after his Rotary talk that inevitably the U.S. Supreme Court will decide who is right.  He wants Governor Perdue to go ahead and file suit against Tennessee so the court can start deliberating the case.  He said the court is charged with settling disputes between states.  When I reminded him that Perdue won’t be governor much longer, he agreed and said he hoped the suit would be filed soon. Once that legal ball gets rolling, Alabama is sure to get into the game because the Tennessee flows into Alabama. 

River Walk on the Chattahoochee River, Columbus, GA

As far as Georgia taking billions of gallons out of the Tennessee, he said the Tennessee River is so large that it can easily supply water to Atlanta without hurting Tennessee economically or environmentally.  While we may think the Chattahoochee is a big river, it is small compared to the Tennessee. He says the Tennessee is seventeen times as large as the Chattahoochee. 

Will a Conservation Law and a Court Appeal Solve Atlanta’s Water Crisis?

April 19, 2010

When I visit my son, Rick, daughter-in-law, Marian, and my grandsons, Benjamin and Christopher, in Cumming, I always have the yen to take a look at the latest condition of Lake Lanier.  That’s because of the incredible drought scenes I saw in 2007.  The picture has definately changed. Rick took me for a ride across Buford Dam Saturday evening, and the lake is beautiful again.  It’s virtually full.   

Lake Lanier, Oct. 20, 2007

Lake Lanier, April 18,2010

But, the fight over drinking water withdrawal rights is far from beautiful. It’s downright ugly.  3 million people in the Atlanta area face the possible loss of their drinking water if some agreement is not reached with Florida and Alabama about who gets how much of  the water by July of 2012.  U.S. District Court Judge Paul Magnuson has ruled that Metropolitan Atlanta doesn’t have the right to continue withdrawing drinking water from the lake.  If you would like more detail on the history of Buford Dam and the lake, check out this link to Wikipedia. 

The state of Georgia is appealing Judge Magnuson’s ruling, and the legislature has just passed a conservation law to cut down on the consumption of water.  The idea in the conservation measure is to show Alabama and Florida that Georgia is willing to do something to ease the problem.  That’s the extent of what the Georgia legislature and Governor Sonny Perdue are doing to deal with this problem.  Will it be enough?  As we used to say in TV news when we ended a story like this, “Time will tell.” Well…it will.

Sidebar

 

Sen. Richard B. Russell, (D) Georgia, 1897-1971

I covered the dedication of Buford dam in 1957 for WSB Radio in Atlanta, interviewing the late and very powerful and grumpy U.S. Senator Richard B. Russell, who wasn’t very nice to me.  I shouldn’t have taken it personally because I later learned that it wasn’t just me. He didn’t like any reporters. He said they were the only people he had to talk to.  The late WSB Radio General Manager Elmo Ellis, a broadcast legend who was the station’s program manager when I was there,  told me that Russell had confessed that to him.  Russell never got married, by the way.    

Wild Hogging it Again

January 11, 2010

I didn’t go this year so I had to depend on the AP story in the Ledger-Enquirer to tell me about it.  Actually, after reading the story, I got the impression that this year wasn’t much different from last year, the one I attended.

Last year the budget was the main concern of just about everyone I talked with when the politicians and lobbyists and media folks gathered at the Georgia Railroad building in Underground Atlanta, a stones throw from the Capitol.   It appears that’s the same main topic this year.  Last year the state had to cut spending and this year it’s going to have to do the same thing.

With the legislature struggling to balance the budget, does the Capitol really need a lavish gold dome? Gold is expected by some to go to $1500 an ounce this year. Why not melt it down and use the proceeds to help balance the budget?

Last year, gubernatorial candidates were smiling big and shaking a lot of hands. That was no different this year, from what I read. It will be interesting to see how legislators handle the huge problems of water, transportation, and education. With elections looming, their decisions could very definitely have an impact on who wins. 

I received this comment today from a person identifying himself as Norman on the post I did last year about the Wild Hog affair.  “Who pays for this dinner of 1500 or more people? If the budget is as bad as they tell us, be nice if things like this could be cut, not police, fire fighters, and teachers.”

According to what I learned last year, the state doesn’t pay for the Wild Hog Dinner. The affair is hosted by Agricultural Commissioner Tommy Irvin.  State Rep. Carolyn Hugley told me last year that it was paid for by “sponsors,”  which probably translates to lobbyists.  It’s pretty safe to assume that’s what happened this year, too.  So you don’t have to worry about the state paying for it, but those teachers, fire fighters, and police could decide to take retribution at the polls when the budget slashers who cut their compensation run for reelection?

An Environmentally Friendly Georgia Sales Tax Holiday

September 30, 2009

 Georgia state Rep. Richard Smith sent this:

Once again, you will have the opportunity to buy energy-saving and water efficient products without sales taxes during the ‘2009 Energy Star and WaterSense Sales Tax Holiday’. The sales tax holiday begins at 12:01 a.m. Thursday, October 1, and runs through midnight Sunday, October 4.

Rep. Richard Smith (Photo, courtesy: Georgia House of Reprsentatives)

Rep. Richard Smith, Georgia House District 131(Photo, courtesy: Georgia House of Representatives)

You will not pay state or local sales taxes on the purchase of Energy Star-qualified or WaterSense-labeled products that cost $1500 or less per item.

ENERGY STAR:  ENERGY STAR designated products meet strict energy efficiency criteria set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy. Qualified ENERGY STAR appliances and products eligible for the sales tax exemption include dishwashers, clothes washers, air conditioners, ceiling fans, fluorescent light bulbs, dehumidifiers, programmable thermostats, refrigerators, doors, windows and skylights.

WaterSense:  According to the EPA, if just one out of every four households in Georgia retrofits their bathrooms with WaterSense fixtures, it could save nearly 10 billion gallons of water per year. WATERSENSE –labeled products eligible for sales tax exemption include bathroom sink faucets or aerators and high-efficiency toilets.

Lake Lanier is Up, but Down, and the Center of a Political Storm

July 26, 2009

When I recently drove across the Buford Dam, which backs up the waters of Lake Lanier,  the lake looked pretty full.  It’s 5.35 feet below full pool level.  Compared to record low levels caused by the the 2007 drought,  it looked full. 

Lake Lanier, view from Buford Dam RD,  Buford, Georgia

Lake Lanier, view from Buford Dam RD, Buford, Georgia

That impression has to be tempered with the fact that the lake is dropping again, releasing  a lot more water than its collecting from its watershed. In fact, it is down about a foot from June. 

Now, to complicate matters even further,  a federal judge, as you probably know, has ruled that Metro Atlanta doesn’t have the right to take water from the lake,  and will have to stop in three years unless Congress passes a law changing the designated purpose of the lake,  flood control and generation of hydroelectric power. 

The judge’s ruling is being hailed as a great victory for Alabama, who wants the water to cool a nuclear power plant, and Florida, who wants a good flow to protect its oyster crop at Apalachicola.

That ruling, however, is a disaster for the Atlanta area, and, some believe, since the Atlanta economic engine is so important to the state, the rest of Georgia has to be very concerned.

There is another reason a lot of  us wanting Metro Atlanta to have the water it needs, relatives who live there.  I took a look a the lake Sunday because I happened to be visiting my son Rick, daughter-in-law Marian, and my two  grandsons, Ben and Chris. They live in Cumming, which is no distance at all from the lake.

Being a downstream Columbusite, I want a good, steady Chattahoochee River flow for our area,  and I can sympathise with Alabama and Florida,  but I am still concerned about the Atlanta area.  It is the economic engine that drives this state, and it’s our state’s big league city.  Besides that, like me,  just about everyone in Georgia has a relative or friend who lives in Metro Atlanta.

What to do? What to do?

Governor Perdue is taking legal action, and has asked the states two Republican Senators, Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson, to go to work to get Congressional approval of a law that allows Atlanta to take water from the lake.  The say they will.

Some are saying that, instead of relying on that approach, the state should start developing alternative sources for the water, things like more resorvoirs and getting Tennessee to allow Georgia to take some its water from the Tennessee River,  a part of which might actually be inside the Georgia state line.  That assumption is being protested by folks in Tennessee.

There is a lot of blame to go around in this water mess.  Many political leaders have basically ignored the problem for a long time.  They might like to continue to ignore it, but they can’t.  It has reached the crisis stage.

Should Columbus Sell Water to Metro-Atlanta?

January 28, 2009
WATER TO SPARE - Front Avenue fountain, Columbus, GA

WATER TO SPARE - Front Avenue fountain, Columbus, GA

Let’s face it,  Lakes Lanier and Alatoona  are not able to supply enough water for  Metro-Atlanta to maintain its rate of growth.  Should it be able to take the water from the rivers below Atlanta?  I’ll tell you what retired Columbus Water Works Executive Director Billy Turner says about that,  but first,  a look at what brought on the conversation. 

Cobb County Board of Commissioners Chairman Sam Olens is proactive in dealing with the water shortage problem in the Atlanta area,  and is concerned about cities downstream like Columbus.   That’s what he told Rotarians as he talked about a number of issues that affect both Cobb and Muscogee Counties.  He is a major player on the Metro North Georgia Water Planning Council.  He says he may run for governor if the state doesn’t properly address the problem,  as well as others like transportation, which he considers critical.

He said he knew that people in Columbus are not happy with the way the Atlanta area has not been responsible in returning clean water to the Chattahoochee,  but he pointed out Cobb County has spent hundreds of millions of dollars upgrading its water treatment system,  and that Gwinette County has the best sewage treatment plant in the state.

He was quite proud of Cobb County’s toilet rebate program.  The county pays rebates of $100 to people who convert their old 8-gallon to  1.28-gallon toilets.  Toilets are the single largest user of water in a household, using 45 percent.  He is big on water conservation as an answer to the water problem.

Billy Turner, Sam Olens, Columbus Convention and Trade Center, Columbus, GA

Billy Turner, Sam Olens, Columbus Convention and Trade Center, Columbus, GA

Billy Turner doesn’t think conservation,  while helpful, can come any where near solving the problem.   He offered to meet with Chairman Olensand discuss his ideas later.  Olens said he would like that.

Later, Billy told me while Cobb County has made great strides in improving its sewage treatment facilities,  it is just one county in the 16-county Metro Atlanta area.  He said the big problem downstream isn’t how much water Metro-Atlanta is taking out of the watersheds,  it’s how much it puts back in.  He said there are a million septic tanks in the area.  Not only do they return water extremely slowly to the streams,  under draught conditions, he maintains, the water is lost because of evaporation and hard, dry soil.  Sewer systems with water treatment plants are the answer to that,  but it is a very expensive answer that doesn’t interest a lot of developers.

Another big problem is inter-basin transfer.  It’s already happens as some Metro-Atlanta areas take water out of one water shed and return it to another.  In other words, water taken from the Chattahoochee can be returned to another river.

As far as the fact that Metro-Atlanta simply can’t continue its growth rate depending on its current water supply, Turner says it’s going to have to  get it from other places than Lake Lanier and Lake Alatoona.  Where?  Well, how about Columbus?  We have plenty of water,  even during draughts.  Turner says he wouldn’t object to selling water to Metro-Atlanta,  if  “they pay enough for it.”

Wild Hogging It on Opening-Session Eve

January 12, 2009

 

Arriving at GA State Capitol for Wild Hog Dinner

Muscogee Democrats arriving at GA State Capitol for Wild Hog Dinner

The Georgia Railroad building at Underground Atlanta, a stone’s throw from the Georgia Capitol,  was packed Sunday night, eve of opening day of the 2009 State Legislature, with state officials, representatives and senators, and people like me.   I was there mainly to gather information, but I did make one lobbying point.  I told Rep. Carolyn Hugley that I was disappointed that the transportation plan for the state failed to get through the legislature last year.  She said, “The House passed it, but it failed in the Senate.”  I told her that was a shame and that new thinking is needed,  that the emphasis needs to shift from pouring millions of tons of concrete adding new lanes to highways to developing rail, that rail is the most efficient way to transport massive numbers of people.   She didn’t respond to that point.

Rep. Carolyn Hugley, GA House District 133, Columbus, GA

Rep. Carolyn Hugley, GA House District 133, Columbus, GA

Agriculture Commissioner Tommy Irvin hosted the Wild Hog Dinner, but it was paid for by “sponsors,” which probably translates to lobbyists. “He didn’t pay for it,”  Carolyn told me.    The barbecue, Brunswick stew, and potato salad were delicious. Nobody, however,  goes to the Wild Hog Dinner just to get some good barbeque – good as it was, it was not as good as Macon Road, Smokey Pig or Country’s in Columbus – no, most people go to network.  And that’s what the affair was all about.

GA House Speaker Rep. Glenn Richardson, GA House Minority Caucus Chair Rep. Calivin Smyre

GA House Speaker Rep. Glenn Richardson, GA House Minority Caucus Chair Rep. Calivin Smyre

   I got the above  shot of Georgia House Minority Caucus Chair Rep. Calvin Smyre  of Columbus networking with Republican Rep. Glenn Richardson, Speaker of the Georgia House.  Calvin is a powerhouse in the legislature, serving since 1974.  Like every legislator I talked with, he said the legislature will be totally occupied with the budget crunch. 

Sen. Seth Harp, (R) Georgia Senate District 29

Sen. Seth Harp, (R) Georgia Senate District 29

State Senator Seth Harp said it was going to be really hard to deal with the pressures that the recession is putting on the state budget, and he doesn’t see it getting any better soon.  Last year state spending was cut more than five percent. “This year it is going to be 10 to 12 percent.”

Deficit spending quite often accompanies a major recession,  but the Georgia constitution prohibits it, and Seth told me,  “We do not have a deficit; we have $1 billion in  a ‘rainy day’ fund that we can tap into if necessary,  though we don’t like to do that because it could adversely affect our AAA bond rating.  Georgia is one of only 6 states that have a AAA rating. ”

Governor Perdue, I read somewhere,  wants to use  state funds to increase improvements in infrastructure to provide jobs and lessen unemployment.  Seth says he’ll have to study that .  He doesn’t want to do anything to hurt the bond rating .

“Aren’t you concerned about umeployment?”  I asked him.

“Of course I am,” he emphatically replied.  “But, there are a number of ways to deal with that.”

“You might go along with the increased infrastructure idea if you determine it’s necessary?”

“Yes.”

All of the Columbus delegation I talked with agreed that many local projects  won’t be funded this year, things like grants to museums. etc.  It’s going to be tough enough not decimating education with more cuts.  Rep. Hugely is very much concerned about that,  emphasizing the important role education plays in the future of the citizens of Georgia, economically and otherwise.  She added,  “The central office hasn’t expressed concern about it.  What we keep getting from that office is that everything is fine.”

“Are you referring to the Superintendent of Education, Kathy Cox?”

“Yes.”

I told a number of legislators that while the budget is of top concern, Georgia is facing critical issues such as transportation and water shortages.  They all agreed but pointed out that money for those programs is part of the budget.  That’s true, but, in my view,  when cuts are considered, the cuts should apply the least to education, transportation, and water shortage solutions.

House Minority Leader Rep. DuBose, (D) District 143, and Carol Porter,

House Minority Leader Rep. DuBose, (D) District 143, and Carol Porter,

Rep. Dupose Porter of Dublin, minority floor leader of the Georgia House  – Carolyn Hugley  is second in command since she is the minority whip –  said in dealing with the budget crisis,  taking money from a home for elderly Georgia military veterans and shifting it to one of Governor Sonny Perdue’s pet projects for his county like  Go Fish  is the kind of thing that has to stop.  Dubose – I know him on a first name basis because he is married to my second-cousin Carol – is expected to announce for governor after this legislative session.  

 I haven’t been to one of those eve-of-opening-session affairs in about 30 years and forgot how much I enjoyed seeing the state’s power players networking intensely.  I have to admit that it was exciting and fun.  There was no formal program and none needed because the real program was raw networking by the state’s top lawmakers.  Almost everyone who is anyone in state government was there.  I didn’t spot Governor Perdue or Columbus State Senator Ed Harbison.

Florida is Turning the Gulf of Mexico into a Toilet

July 1, 2008

 

A few years ago, I took a cruise from Bainbridge, Georgia to Apalachicola, Florida. I kept seeing these little shacks sitting on fishing piers along the Apalachicola River.

 

“You know what those are?” a fellow environmentalists on the cruise asked.

 

“No.”

 

“They are claimed to be places to wash and clean fish, but most of them are toilets. Fishermen use those.”

 

“How do they get away with that? Isn’t that illegal?”

 

“Like I said, they claim they are places to clean and wash fish. But, they’re toilets.”

 

Now, I can’t really confirm they were toilets because I didn’t get to look inside any of them. But, the story did bring home the problem of human waste polluting streams, which, I would have thought had pretty much been solved by waste water treatment plants. That appears not to be the case in Florida.

 

Turns out that Florida has turned the Gulf of Mexico into a toilet, according to study by the Clean Water Network of Florida. I was alerted to this by a Florida website that linked to Dick’s World. You can read it by clicking this link.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Big Problem with Solving Water Shortages: Splintering

June 27, 2008

  The Metro Atlanta area is facing another long hot summer as drought conditions continue. Lake Lanier did regain some of the water it lost to last summer’s drought, but it wasn’t enough to bring the lake back to full. It is 14.4 feet below full and falling as the sun evaporates more than two-tenths of an inch every day.

 

 

Lake Lanier, October, 2007

Lake Lanier, October, 2007

 

 

  Billy Turner, of the Columbus Water Works, indicated that the drought probably won’t be as severe as it was last summer. The highest drought level is a 4.. The only part of the state that is still at that level is in the north Metro Atlanta area. The rest of the area is down to a 3. Most of the state, including Columbus, which had reached the #3 level, is at a 2, and the southeastern part of Georgia is at 0.

 

 

Billy Tuner, Columbus Water Works President

Billy Turner, Columbus Water Works President

 

  Efforts in Metro Atlanta are still underway to conserve water, with things like washing cars at home being banned, and limited lawn watering in effect, but can such measures do the trick?

 

  The Corps of Engineers has been allowed to hold back a little more water at Lake Lanier and some other reservoirs in Georgia, but not much. The Corps is mandated to keep level of river flow that protects downstream, was held back because the Corps must maintain the downstream flow. Folks downstream, especially at Apalachicola, Florida, like it that way. Metro Atlanta people aren’t all that happy about that.

 

  This drought has really brought home the mistaken past philosophy of dealing with this problem, which was to ignore recommendations made by planners long ago.

 

  Rick Perlstein writes in Campaign for America’s Future, “Atlanta boomed in the wake of the monster capital investments made in anticipation of the 1996 Olympics, the magazine [Atlanta magazine] reports; ‘In 1990, the Atlanta area was projected to draw 800,000 new residents over the next twenty years; in the ten years following the Olympics, the total population increased by almost 1.4 million…. But in that same ten-year period, the reservoirs that supply our most vital resource grew not a bit.’

  Perlstein says that a 1969 study by the Atlanta Region Metropolitan Planning Commission said infrastructure changes would be needed to avoid critical water shortages when Atlanta’s population reached between three and five million. In the 1980s, planners proposed networks of reservoirs throughout North Georgia. The project was deemed too costly. Instead, “What did the Atlanta metropolitan area do instead? Issue building permits – 48, 262 in 1996; 68, 240 in 2006.”

Turner told me that the big problem in the past has been splintering. Each county was looking after its own self interest. That doesn’t work. When making comprehensive water plans the state as a whole has to be considered.  The way one county use water affects neighboring counties.

Well, the planners are at it again. This time they are saying that, even with the emergency conditions caused by the draught, Atlanta will have enough water for the city to grow to 8 million people by 2030. Turner doubts that. So do I.

As I have said before, they put atlanta in the wrong place. Columbus has a greater water supply than Atlanta. Turner has stated in the past that Coumbus could easily handle a population of 6 million people. Metro Atlanta already has almost 5 million and look at the problem it is facing. It will have enough enough water for 8 million. I don’t think so, unless it can tap into another river system like it is exploring on the Georrgia-Tennessee line. Some are claiming that the border line is incorrect and that the Tombigbe River at that point is actually in Georgia.  Pursuing this would, no doubt add Tennessee to the Water War now being fought between Georgia, Alabama and Florida.