The sisters of the sun are gonna rock me on the water. Rock me on the water, sister won’t you soothe my fevered brow.
— Jackson Browne
Excerpts from an Albany Herald article dated Aug. 4, 2010:
During a question/answer session, (then-GOP gubernatorial candidate Nathan) Deal said his stand on Georgia’s ongoing water wars with Alabama and Florida has been “misconstrued or deliberately misstated.” He said he does not support wholesale inner-basin transfer of water.
“The only time inner-basin transfer should be allowed is in counties that are part of a unified water system,” Deal said. “But, clearly, I do not support wholesale inner-basin transfers. Frankly, if we do a better job of water management, I don’t believe we’ll need such transfers.
“What we need is to show (U.S. District Court) Judge (Paul) Magnussen that Georgia is coming to the table on this issue with clean hands. Many of the major metro areas in Georgia have very leaky water pipes, and we need to fix them. And cities that use large amounts of water must treat the water to a clean quality standard that we can get credit for the water that’s returned to our waterways.”
Deal made those comments as a direct answer to a question I asked him during a campaign stop in Albany. His then-Republican opponents turned comments Deal had previously made about building additional reservoirs in north Georgia to secure water from the upper Flint River basin for metro Atlanta’s use into a campaign issue, one they hit hard in middle and south Georgia. The state, opponents like Karen Handel declared, would see complete mismanagement of the Flint and other Georgia waterways under a Deal administration.
I thought about those comments Wednesday when I read the latest American Rivers report that listed the Flint as the second-most endangered River in America. The report said increased demand for the Flint’s waters in the teeming metro Atlanta area, increased irrigation usage by farmers down river, plus years of intense drought throughout the state that dried up streams along the river’s watershed left the Flint in danger of irreparable damage without immediate conservation efforts.
Deal, meanwhile, has, since winning that 2010 election and taking office, announced a four-year plan to allocate $300 million in state funding toward projects designed to “increase the state’s water storage capacity.” The first of those allocations, some $90.49 million, was announced last year for eight projects that call for either direct tax funds or low-interest loans to plan, permit and build reservoirs or wells.
One gives $4.46 million in tax funding to a group planning to dig a well that will pump water specifically to a resort and water park at Lake Lanier Island north of Atlanta. Another, this one also funded directly by taxpayers, allocates $4.6 million to drill wells in Southwest Georgia that will be used to pump chemically treated river water into our acquifer system to see if it can be recaptured.
The remaining 2012 funding will be used to provide low-interest loans for counties and private companies looking to build reservoirs that most environmental groups say are not only not needed, but will further damage the delicate ecosystems of the state’s rivers.
In other words, Deal’s campaign promise made to Albany voters — voters whose futures, it must be noted, are directly tied to the Flint and the region’s acquifer system — rings very hollow today in light of his assault on the state’s, and particularly middle and south Georgia’s, river systems.
Down river stakeholders are left to wonder if, under Deal’s water plan that puts such a high priority on the gluttonous needs of metro Atlanta, we’ll even have a river system left to worry about by the end of his tenure in the governor’s mansion.
Real Deal indeed.
Email Metro Editor Carlton Fletcher at email@example.com.