Tolleson proposes private funding for reservoirs

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Sen. Ross Tolleson (R-Perry) has drafted legislation that would authorize private investors to finance and operate reservoirs and other water infrastructure projects in conjunction with local governments.

Tolleson, the chairman of the Senate Natural Resources Committee, will formally introduce SB 122 next week.

The bill would authorize local governments to enter contracts of as long as 50 years duration with private entities for the financing, construction and operation of reservoirs.  SB 122, as currently written, would not give the private parties the eminent domain power to condemn property for a reservoir.

“In such difficult economic times, it’s imperative that we utilize our private sector partnerships to help expand Georgia’s water supply,” Tolleson said.  “The future of Georgia businesses, local governments and the state all depend on maintaining adequate water resources.”

Tolleson said the public-private approach described in his bill is similar to the legislation adopted in 2003 that provides for public-private toll road projects involving private investors and the Department of Transportation.

While several public-private projects have been proposed to DOT over the past eight years, none of them have actually resulted in the construction of a toll road.

Tolleson’s bill was endorsed by officials with the Georgia and Metro Atlanta chambers of commerce.

“This bill is an important next step as we develop a comprehensive plan to address our statewide water needs,” said Tim Lowe, chair of the Georgia Chamber’s environment and energy committee.  “We will look forward to working with Senator Tolleson and other members of the General Assembly to support its passage.”

“We can’t afford to wait and this new legislation would leverage public dollars with significant private-sector funds,” said John Brock, chair of the Metro Atlanta Chamber.

The proposal will likely draw a more skeptical response from environmental organizations, who in the past have been critical of the concept of private ownership of public waterways.

© 2011 by The Georgia Report

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Tags: public-private financing , reservoirs , Ross Tolleson