Would you invest millions in a speculative product for which there was no demand? You would if you were Gov. Nathan Deal.
Would you invest millions of dollars in a company manufacturing widgets if that company lost 25 percent of its widgets in shipping? You would if you were Gov. Nathan Deal.
Of course, Gov. Deal has not been known for his acumen in his personal investments, but here he’s investing our tax dollars…and we should be very concerned.
It was these shaky investments, doled out as part of the Governor’s Water Supply Program (GWSP) that the Georgia Water Coalition highlighted in its recently released “Dirty Dozen,” a list of the 12 worst offenses to Georgia’s water (full list available at http://www.garivers.org/gawater/dirtydozen.htm).
A week before this list was released, the Deal Administration announced that it would invest $45 million in four water supply projects including the proposed Glades Reservoir in Hall County and the proposed Richland Creek Reservoir in Paulding County.
Thankfully, for Lumpkin and Dawson county residents, the Deal Administration opted not to provide funding for the proposed Calhoun Creek Reservoir—a pipedream that even Gov. Deal balked at…for now.
The need for the Glades Reservoir, to be filled with water diverted from the Chattahoochee River upstream of Lake Lanier, is very much in question. Depending on the outcome of studies by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Hall County and others may be able to take much more water from Lake Lanier, rendering Glades unnecessary.
In fact, to make it easier to funnel money to Glades, in October the Deal Administration changed the application rules for the GWSP, eliminating the requirement that applicants demonstrate a need for new water supply though 2050.
Likewise, the necessity of Paulding County’s Richland Creek reservoir is very doubtful. The county’s unrealistic population growth projections, its anemic water conservation efforts and uncertainty over how much water will be available from Lake Allatoona (the county’s current water supply) leave one wondering about the projected $90 million dam project (more than $50 million of which has already been provided by the Deal Administration through state loans).
What’s worse, the Paulding County Water Department, which would handle the water from this reservoir loses one out of every four gallons that it distributes because of leaking pipes and other inefficiencies.
Yet, the Deal Administration remains fixated on building dams. The single-minded focus is driven largely by the two-decade old water war with Alabama and Florida where it appears the Deal Administration’s strategy is to build its own reservoirs, control what flows into the federal lakes (Allatoona and Lanier) and circumvent federal control of these multi-state river systems.
The Administration’s latest move is to change yet another state rule (to be voted on by the Department of Natural Resources Board in December). This one would expand the state’s claim of “ownership” of water released from reservoirs upstream of Lanier and Allatoona.
To put Gov. Deal’s water spending priorities in perspective, consider this: During the past two years, he has directed $160 million to reservoir projects while sending only about $22 million to water efficiency projects which are generally considered the most cost-effective water supply investments we can make.
These mixed-up priorities and rule changes serve only to aggravate already contentious relations with Alabama and Florida—not to mention the federal government—and make reaching a water sharing agreement with our neighbors that much more elusive.
Alabama and Florida have already balked at Glades Reservoir, and a similar project on the Etowah River (Hickory Log Creek Reservoir), though completed, has gone unused because the Corps has repeatedly blocked Georgia’s claim of “ownership” of the water released from this reservoir into the Etowah River and Lake Allatoona.
Does the Deal Administration expect a different outcome from Glades Reservoir?
If Gov. Deal were wise he’d place a moratorium on dam investments until we know how much water we can realistically take from the big federal reservoirs. Simultaneously, he should direct his water supply funds to help communities like Paulding County fix their leaking pipes.
But don’t hold your breath; we’re dealing with Deal, a governor known for unwise business investments.