In this June 2012 file photo, Rickey Owens, of Baconton, zips around in his motorboat on the Flint River in Mitchell County. River advocates say legislation aimed at the Flint River would be harmful to it.
ATLANTA -- Georgia Water Coalition, an alliance of environmental organizations, hunting and fishing groups, businesses and faith-based organizations, is slamming a proposed new bill which the organization says will worsen water issues for the Flint River.
According to the Coalition, SB 213, a proposed amendment to the existing Flint River Drought Protection Act, contains a "poison pill," that threatens rivers property rights and taxpayers.
"I don't believe the (drought protection act) as is now exists is doing a good job of protecting the river in times of drought," said Gil Rogers, with the Southern Environmental Law Center, a non-profit law group, "This new bill could make a bad situation even worse."
At the heart of the matter are "stream flow augmentation " projects, including Aquifer Storage and Recovery or ASR projects, which the Coalition considers dangerous to the water system, officials say.
Gil Rogers described aquifer storage as "the injection of ground water into the aquifer, which would be extracted later and sent downstream." According to Rogers, the process allows for contamination of the ground above the aquifer and even to the aquifer itself. The original Georgia House Bill disallowed the use of aquifer storage but the bill was changed when it went to the Senate, Gil Rogers said.
In addition, Coalition officials say that water added by the project will flow to Florida while Georgia farmers and other property owners will be denied reasonable use.
According to the Georgia Water Coalition, the augmentation provisions also allow the Georgia Environmental Protection Division director to deny water users downstream of an undefined augmentation project the use of any of the "augmented" water flowing past their property. In addition, the provision allows the state or even a private party to control a portion of stream flow and prohibit its reasonable use.
"This is no longer just a Flint River bill," said Gordon Rogers, executive director of Flint Riverkeeper. "SB 213 would radically change water law in this state and undercut property rights for all Georgians."