The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reported Wednesday that it will temporarily decrease the flow of Chattahoochee River water from Lake Lanier, the reservoir that supplies water to Atlanta.
The Corps will reduce downstream flow by about 13 percent in what it says is a conservation move against the possibility of prolonged drought. The reduced flow won’t be noticeable, and the impact, if any, on our water supply is expected to be minimal.
Preparation now is better than crisis later. Still, every Chattahoochee stakeholder downstream from Atlanta can be forgiven for a bit of familiar unease.
The Army’s conclusion that lower flow will not have an adverse environmental impact is, according to the Associated Press, based on “information supplied by Georgia officials.” It would at least sound more comforting if Uncle Sam had consulted with a couple of other stakeholders (assuming he didn’t), especially if said “Georgia” officials are the same ones litigating for years to keep Atlanta’s large-bore pipeline in the river’s largest upstream reservoir.
The Corps says the extra water stored at Lanier could be released to help downstream users: “It’s for the health of the system,” the spokesman said. If that should turn out to be the case, then it will indeed have demonstrated the wisdom of foresight.
By and large, these are old concerns, based on tired old conflicts.
In the centerpiece essay of today’s Forum, RiverWay South Director Carole Rutland calls our attention to an organization trying to navigate around these old snags and resolve these decades-old water disputes for the long term. A group called ACF Stakeholders (the name, of course, derives from the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river basin) has assembled a diverse group from private, commercial, political and environmental sectors. They represent the interests of Alabama, Georgia and Florida, of the upper and lower Chattahoochee, the Flint and the Apalachicola. They are urban, suburban, rural and small town.
ACF Stakeholders is new by comparison with the dispute it was formed to resolve, but it wasn’t born yesterday: It incorporated as a nonprofit more than two years ago, on the premise that politics and lawsuits had only made the disputes more expensive and the competing interests more entrenched.
A top priority, as Rutland notes, is for dependable, verifiable data. Conflicting claims and political smoke have all but obscured the facts of water supply, demand and stewardship. ACF Stakeholders is raising $1 million (more, if possible) for fact- and science-based information on the river system.
“It is now time,” reads the organization’s Case Statement, “to end decades of stalemate in our region over water allocation. We can all be part of a visionary new plan that meets the needs of our residents, our economy and our environment.” Further information is available at http://acfstakeholders.org.
More power to them.