Political Notes – Chattooga could have first private water project


Chattooga County could be one of the first local governments to take advantage of a new state law authorizing public-private partnerships to develop reservoirs and other water infrastructure projects.

The Northwest Georgia county is not aiming to build a reservoir but rather is considering a more modest proposal to distribute water from a spring in the eastern part of the county on property owned by a real estate firm, reports Andy Johns of the Chattanooga Times-Free Press:

Commissioner Jason Winters said the county could work with Forestar Real Estate Group to develop Regal Springs in eastern Chattooga into a “very low-cost, high-volume water resource.”
“This resource could completely meet the needs of our county and help some of the others,” he said. “For Walker, Chattooga and Floyd [counties], it’s a great selling point to say we have guaranteed water.”

The spring — located 4 1/2 miles from Floyd County and about 6 miles from Walker — is believed to pump out as many as 12 million gallons per day. Winters says initial talks have outlined a plan to collect 4 million to 6 million gallons a day from the spring and store it above ground in half-million-gallon tanks.

“No reservoir, no lake,” Winters said, dispelling talk that the surrounding area could be flooded.
But working out the details will take time, Winters said, especially financing the work.

As early as March 2010, U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., requested $4 million from the Senate Appropriations Committee for water system improvements in Walker, Chattooga and Floyd counties, including “developing Regal Springs into a water supply for a tri-county area that includes Chattooga, Floyd and Walker counties.”

Clark still wants reservoirs

Chris Clark, the former natural resources commissioner who now heads the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, contends the state needs to push ahead and build more reservoirs even with the recent federal court rulings that restored Metro Atlanta’s access to Lake Lanier.

In an op-ed column, Clark writes:

It is important to understand that even if the 11th Circuit’s ruling is upheld, and even if we are able to reach a favorable agreement with Alabama and Florida, we will need additional resources to prepare for future population growth, to support new business investment, and to ensure that we can meet the needs of all communities during periods of drought – something that is already a challenge today.

While Georgia is fortunate to average nearly 50 inches of rain in a normal year, drought conditions like those experienced in 157 of the state’s 159 counties this summer can quickly cause streams and lakes to run low, wells to go dry, and put coastal aquifers at risk for saltwater intrusion. Farmers cannot water crops, tourists cannot enjoy water-based activities, and some communities even run the risk of losing their drinking water supply. In short, the very quality of life we pride ourselves upon as Georgians – north, south and central – is threatened.

Through the leadership of elected, business and community leaders, Georgia has taken tremendous steps forward with regard to water planning and the Georgia Chamber has been proud to be a part of those efforts. We have put one of the nation’s most comprehensive conservation laws into place as well as a sound mechanism for statewide water planning. But conservation and planning alone will never fill the projected gap in supply. In addition to being good stewards, we must begin to capture more of the rainfall we receive.

Today, plans are in place to bring sixteen new reservoirs on-line, projects made possible by a $300 million commitment from Governor Deal and a new Georgia Chamber supported public-private funding option passed by the General Assembly that will allow these and other water supply and treatment projects to move forward. Opponents of some water-related projects will offer a passionate but groundless argument of why they should be stopped. They’ll seek to divide us by region, by politics, and by vocation but the need to address Georgia’s water supply needs has been borne out in studies for decades, and federal, state and local permitting and review processes will make sure we mitigate environmental impact while protecting downstream needs. Efforts to protect our aquifers, our downstream needs, our agricultural industry, our recreation and our natural resources can all prevail if we continue to work together.

As I’m writing this today, it is raining across Georgia, but who knows what the weeks ahead will bring. Let’s not let changes in the weather keep us from focusing on that one simple goal – making sure there is enough water for us all in the future.

He was against the healthcare act before he was for it

Andy Miller of the Georgia Healthcare News website notes a policy contradiction within the Deal administration over the federal healthcare act signed into law last year by President Barack Obama.

Georgia is in the process of moving an estimated 40,000 children of state employees from the State Health Benefits Plan to the PeachCare health insurance program, a move that will save some money for the Department of Community of Health. But, as Miller reports:

The states have taken advantage of a provision in the 2010 health care reform law that ended a prohibition against children of state employees joining CHIP. “I personally think this was an unfair prohibition,’’ Cathy Caldwell, director of the Alabama ALL Kids plan, said Thursday.

Yet Georgia, along with 25 other states, is fighting the 2010 law, known as the Affordable Care Act, in the courts. Alabama, Texas and Pennsylvania are also challenging the constitutionality of the legislation.

When asked whether the state government’s pursuit of financial help through a law it opposes in court shows inconsistency, Brian Robinson, a spokesman for Gov. Nathan Deal, said the state is upholding its legal obligations while at the same time looking out for Georgians’ interests.

Executive appointments

The governor’s office has announced these appointments to state boards and commissions –

Georgia State Board of Occupational Therapy: Robert C. Cooper, director of long-term care rehabilitation at the Columbus Regional Healthcare System; Georgia Historical Records Advisory Board: Ross King, executive director for the Association County Commissioners of Georgia, Helen A. Person, a consultant with Preservation Resources South, Gwyn B. Chesnut, former president of the Carroll County Historical Society, and White County Probate Judge Garrison B. Baker of Cleveland.

Georgia Superior Court Clerks’ Cooperative Authority: Hall County Superior and State Court Clerk Charles Baker; Georgia Council on American Indian Concerns: T. David Petite, an Atlanta inventor and a member of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa tribe; Georgia Board of Massage Therapy: Jane H. Johnson, owner of Clinical Massage Associates in Marietta, Kathy V. Lescak, owner of a medical massage clinic in Metter, and Athens dentist Patrick G. Robinson.

Board of Commissioners of the Judges of the Probate Courts Retirement Fund of Georgia: James C. Larche, retired deputy director of the Employees’ Retirement System of Georgia (ERS); State Board of Podiatry Examiners: Gainesville podiatrist Rudolf W. Cisco; Board of Community Health: Gainesville ophthalmologist Jack M. Chapman.

© 2011 by The Georgia Report


Tags: Chattooga County , Chris Clark , Department of Community Health , federal healthcare act , Georgia Chamber of Commerce , Nathan Deal appointments , PeachCare , reservoirs , water resource projects