Legislation in Atlanta could help Flint River area

ALBANY -- The Flint Riverkeeper organization and more than 60 state legislators stand ready to fight for the Flint River's water to keep flowing into Southwest Georgia, officials said.

"Atlanta wants our water," said Rep. Carol Fullerton, D-Albany. "That is what this bill is about."

The bill, The River Basin Protection Act of 2010, is designed to regulate interbasin transfers of water in Georgia without prohibiting interbasin transfers, said Gordon Rogers, executive director of the Flint Riverkeeper organization via e-mail.

Put another way, the bill would place restrictions on the Georgia Environmental Protection Division's moving water out of one water basin into another, while allowing water movement within the same water basin's rivers.

When water is moved from one water basin to another that water supply leaves the original basin permanently. It is gone from drinking water supply and waste absorption.

If Atlanta needs water and takes it from the Flint River basin, the water that is needed in south Georgia is diminished, Rogers said.

The bill "keeps the existing prohibition on water transfers into the Metropolitan North Water Planning District to provide protection for downstream communities," Rogers said.

The bill also expands the public notice requirements for water transfers and puts a cost-effective requirement that could allow for other less expensive measures to conserve water rather than increasing supply, Rogers said.

Rogers foresees a battle for passage of the bill in the General Assembly and the Senate.

"There will be big fights in whatever committee it is assigned to, there will be a Senate fight too," Rogers said. "We are committed to winning this fight, this year, or whenever we can. The future of Georgia is at stake."

In our area signers crossed party lines and include, Winfred Dukes, D-Albany; Ed Rynders, R-Leesburg; Bob Hanner, D-Parrott; Mike Cheokas, D-Americus; Buddy Harden, R-Cordele; Gene Maddox, R-Cairo; Austin Scott, R-Tifton; Penny Houstin, R-Nashville; Jay Powell, R-Camilla; and Lynmore James, D-Montezuma, according to Rogers.