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A new federal rule clarifies which wetlands, streams, rivers, ponds and other water bodies are protected under the Clean Water Act.

A new federal rule clarifies which wetlands, streams, rivers, ponds and other water bodies are protected under the Clean Water Act.

Watch out farmers, ranchers, developers and anyone else that might set foot in a “water of the United States,” the big, bad federal government is coming to take you away…hee, hee, ho, ho, they are coming to take you away!

At least that’s what some lawmakers would have us believe.

A recent U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) clarification of what rivers, streams, lakes, ponds, wetlands and other water bodies are protected by the 43-year-old Clean Water Act has sent some members of Georgia’s congressional delegation into a tizzy.

Said Rep. Tom Graves (R-Ranger): “The Obama Administration is reaching beyond its authority…EPA will have the ability to regulate small streams, farm ponds and irrigation ditches.”

Sen. Johnny Isakson went a step further: “This latest overreach by the executive branch will…delay and prevent development and land use activities…This rule harms not only landowners, but our entire agriculture industry in Georgia.”

Georgians would be wise to take this rhetoric with a grain of salt.

Across the nation, only 3 percent more water bodies will be protected as a result of this new rule. According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, in Georgia no additional waters will be covered by the new rule.

The reality is that virtually all water bodies in Georgia are protected under the Clean Water Act. According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers no additional water bodies in Georgia will be protected as a result of the new rule.

The reality is that virtually all water bodies in Georgia are protected under the Clean Water Act. According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers no additional water bodies in Georgia will be protected as a result of the new rule.

In fact, currently, virtually all of the water flowing through our state is protected. If a developer wants to push dirt into even a tiny stream or wetland to build a shopping center, they must first win approval from state and federal regulators. This rule does not create any more hoops for developers to jump through.

And, those farmers that fear the new rule is going to put federal regulators in their corn fields, can rest easy. According to EPA, all agricultural exemptions remain in place.

It appears the rhetoric coming out of Washington is more about partisan politics than on-the-ground realities. This is most unfortunate.

The Clean Water Act is the reason that human feces and toilet paper does not still float down the Coosa. It’s the reason that the Oostanaula and Chattooga rivers don’t still flow blue and purple from the dyes of textile mills. And, in the future, if not dismantled by radical elements that would do away with all government regulation, it will be the reason why our streams, rivers and lakes remain places we want to visit.

When it was adopted by Congress in 1972, it did so with strong bi-partisan support via an override of President Nixon’s veto. Seventeen Senate Republicans voted for the override, and in the House, the override won by a 10-1 margin with 96 Republicans supporting the Act.

If we want to keep our rivers, streams and lakes as places we want to visit, we need a strong Clean Water Act that protects even the smallest of streams.

Paddlers make their way down the Etowah River. If we want to keep our rivers, streams and lakes as places we want to visit, we need a strong Clean Water Act that protects even the smallest of streams.

In Northwest Georgia, some one million people get their drinking water from rivers like the Conasauga, Oostanaula, Coosawattee and Etowah. We cannot assure the cleanliness of these sources without protecting the smallest wetlands, swamps, ponds and streams that feed these rivers. The Clean Water Act has always, and still does, do that.

Rather than infringing on the property rights of landowners, as some of our congressional leaders assert, the Clean Water Act actually protects downstream property owners (and all citizens) from acts by upstream neighbors that would harm our water and our use and enjoyment of it.

Every citizen deserves that kind of protection. Congressional leaders need to stop the “coming to take us away” rhetoric and support this latest clarification of the Clean Water Act, a federal law originally adopted with strong bi-partisan support.

Here's the crowd that gathered for the dedication of the US 411 boat launch, the latest addition to the Etowah River Water Trail.

Here’s the crowd that gathered for the dedication of the US 411 boat launch, the latest addition to the Etowah River Water Trail.

On May 14 with the dedication of a new Etowah River Water Trail boat launch at U.S. 411 in Bartow County, a question about the fate of the Etowah River was answered.

Let me explain:

In 2002, my daughter, her mother and I spent 30 days canoeing the 163-mile length of the Etowah River. By journey’s end, Ramsey, then just three-years-old, had learned the call of the pileated woodpecker as it echoed through the forests and could quote the paddlers’ motto: “just go with the flow.”

For me, journey’s end left me smitten by the Etowah…and a little afraid for its future.

What we saw on that journey was a river flowing through rapidly developing communities where tough decisions would soon be made about which way the river should go—down a path of preservation and progress or down a path of defilement and destruction.

We saw in the Etowah the same dynamic that the Chattahoochee River faced in the mid-1970s as Atlanta’s suburbs crept steadily north along its banks.

Thankfully, the Chattahoochee was, in large part, saved thanks to the synergy of local activists, a sympathetic state governor (Jimmy Carter) and a movement within the National Parks Service to create “urban national parks.”

New information kiosk at US 411 boat launch in Bartow County.

New information kiosk at US 411 boat launch in Bartow County.

Since 1975, thousands of acres of land have been preserved as the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, a string of parks that is visited by millions each year.

The question back in 2002 was this: could something similar happen on the Etowah?

Today, that three-year-old fan of pileated woodpeckers is driving a car and Etowah River communities have answered that question with a resounding “YES!”

In 2002, there were three developed public access points on the river. Through the combined efforts of local governments, private landowners and non-profit organizations (with aid from Georgia Department of Natural Resources Recreational Trails grants) there are now 11 developed public boat launches, and more are on the way.

The same synergy that prompted protection of the Chattahoochee has come together on the Etowah. Non-profit organizations like the Coosa River Basin Initiative (CRBI), Upper Etowah River Alliance, Mountain Stewards, the Mountain Conservation Trust of Georgia, The Nature Conservancy and others have raised money to protect land and establish public access points.

Local governments in Dawson, Cherokee, Bartow and Floyd counties have preserved property and developed boat launches. Even the National Parks Service has lent a hand, facilitating the formation of an Etowah River Water Trail Stakeholders group.

That group, made up of local governments, non-profit organizations, businesses and landowners, is now raising money and aiding local governments in promoting and developing the Etowah River Water Trail.

A new riverfront park project is underway in Forsyth County, the City of Canton just opened a park with a boat launch and the City of Cartersville established a new boat launch last year. The addition of the U.S. 411 site in Bartow County creates a 48-mile trail stretching from Allatoona Dam to Rome and connected by six launches.

The growth of the Etowah River Water Trail will enable more individuals to enjoy the river. This ultimately creates more stewards of the Etowah.

The growth of the Etowah River Water Trail will enable more individuals to enjoy the river. This ultimately creates more stewards of the Etowah.

There’s even a website, www.etowahwatertrail.org, that includes complete maps and guides of the river, and a guidebook, the Etowah River User’s Guide.

It’s been 13 years since I was first smitten by the Etowah. Today I’m a little less fearful for its future.

Local governments recognize the river and water trail as an amenity for citizens and an economic development tool. Most importantly, more and more people are venturing on the river, discovering its charms and falling in love with it.

This bodes well for the river. A river with many lovers is one that is well kept.

Georgia's coastal marshes won a measure of protection during the 2015 Georgia General Assembly session.

Georgia’s coastal marshes won a measure of protection during the 2015 Georgia General Assembly session.

The Georgia General Assembly closed shop April 2, and for Georgia’s environment, there was both good news and bad.

Topping the list of good news was the passage of House Bill 57 that will make it more affordable for homeowners to install solar panels. Shifting our energy dependence away from coal to clean energy sources creates new jobs and ultimately helps our rivers…yes our rivers. For example, Plant Hammond—a coal-fired power plant on the Coosa River—is the single largest user of water in northwest Georgia and its negative impacts on the Coosa have been far-reaching.

If you love Georgia’s coast, you’ll also be pleased with the passage of SB 101, a bill that restores a 25-foot “no-build zone,” or buffer, along Georgia’s coastal marshes.

This bill’s journey through the legislature is especially notable because its shows that citizen activists still make a difference in a political climate where money and well-heeled lobbyists too often rule the day.

As originally introduced, the marsh buffer bill included loopholes inserted at the request of a single lobbyist protecting the interests of wealthy clients on the Georgia coast.

The 200-plus member Georgia Water Coalition (GWC), including the Coosa River Basin Initiative, called out these loopholes, and many legislators agreed. Rep. Johnny Meadows (R-Calhoun), chairman of the powerful House Rules Committee, held the bill until the loopholes were removed, and a bill that truly protected the marshes passed. It was a victory for citizens (and our beautiful marshes) over special interests.

Plastic bags and other plastic containers are the most common trash found in Georgia's rivers. Thankfully, legislators defeated a bill that would have kept Georgia dependent on one-use, disposable plastic bags and containers for years to come.

Plastic bags and other plastic containers are the most common trash found in Georgia’s rivers. Thankfully, legislators defeated a bill that would have kept Georgia dependent on one-use, disposable plastic bags and containers for years to come.

Likewise, plastic bag manufacturers had their proverbial backsides handed to them. When Tybee Island and Athens began considering bans on plastic bags to curb litter and protect wildlife, the plastic bag manufacturing association convinced some legislators to introduce a bill prohibiting local governments from passing laws banning or otherwise restricting use of plastic bags.

Again, citizen activists, including the GWC, raised their voices. The House of Representatives soundly defeated the measure.

Of course, plastic bags, on their own, are not the problem; it’s people that cause plastic bag pollution. But now at least, local governments might experiment with progressive measures to wean us off one-use, disposable bags and other containers.

Now, for the bad news…

SB 36, a bill aimed at protecting well water by restoring a long-standing moratorium on the controversial and dangerous practice of injecting surface water into underground wells, languished in committee. It was bottled up by Gov. Nathan Deal’s administration that sees “aquifer storage and recovery” as a means of extending the state’s water supply….even at the risk of polluting pristine groundwater.

With HB 397, the Deal Administration also dismantled the Georgia Soil and Water Conservation Commission.

The bill allows Gov. Deal to hand-pick a panel responsible for approving the “Green Book,” the state manual that dictates what kind of precautions developers must take to keep dirt from leaving construction sites and muddying our streams.

Clear, free-flowing streams are at risk if Gov. Nathan Deal's hand-picked erosion and sedimentation council meddles with the state's manual for erosion control.

Clear, free-flowing streams are at risk if Gov. Nathan Deal’s hand-picked erosion and sedimentation council meddles with the state’s manual for erosion control.

After signing the bill, he quickly made those appointments. They included a paving contractor, a Georgia Power executive and a Department of Transportation engineer—all representatives of the entities regulated by the Green Book. No members of Georgia’s environmental advocacy community got the nod.

Finally, HB 255 tops the cake. This bill—backed by the Georgia Forestry Association—makes it illegal for any state-funded construction project to seek Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.

LEED-certified buildings save state taxpayers money through energy and water efficiency, but Georgia tree farmers have taken issue with LEED requirements to qualify as sustainable forest products. Their solution? Run the LEED program out of publicly-funded construction. Inexplicably, the bill passed. This measure rightfully won one of Creative Loafing Atlanta’s Golden Sleaze Awards for 2015.

Fallout from the 2015 legislative session, both good and bad, is proof that we need active and engaged citizens to protect our state’s natural resources and local communities.

A Valentine's Day card for Georgia's Environmental Protection Division and Georgia Power. All the Coosa needs is love...and a cooling tower!

A Valentine’s Day card for Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division and Georgia Power. All the Coosa needs is love…and a cooling tower!

In May 2011, the largest documented fish kill in Georgia history occurred on South Georgia’s Ogeechee River. Some 38,000 fish died and the news shocked local communities. The kill was traced to discharges from a textile plant and ultimately, thanks to a $5 million legal settlement secured by Ogeechee Riverkeeper, that discharge was cleaned up and the Ogeechee is now recovering.

Here in North Georgia on the Coosa River, it is probable that each year more fish perish at Georgia Power’s Plant Hammond, a coal-fired power generation facility near Rome, than died in the Ogeechee tragedy. And, sadly, our Coosa tragedy has occurred every year for more than 50 years with no action to correct the problem.

A Georgia Power study conducted from 2004-2005 at Plant Hammond and obtained by the Coosa River Basin Initiative in December through state open records requests, concluded that as many as 30,000-60,000 fish a year could die from being sucked into the plant’s intake pipes on the Coosa. Other data indicates that during the peak spring spawning season each day as many as 24 million striped bass eggs and larvae could be sucked into the plant’s cooling water system and perish.

These numbers are unfathomable, but so is the amount of water that Plant Hammond uses to produce the electricity we use in our homes and businesses. When operating at full capacity, more than 500 million gallons a day are pumped from the river and returned as unnaturally warm water. This massive withdrawal and discharge has occurred for more than 50 years, degrading the health of the river and reducing fish populations.

Plant Hammond on the Coosa River near Rome. This coal-fired power plant pumps more than 500 million gallons of water from the Coosa each day--about the same as what all of metro Atlanta uses in one day.

Plant Hammond on the Coosa River near Rome. This coal-fired power plant pumps more than 500 million gallons of water from the Coosa each day–about the same as what all of metro Atlanta uses in one day.

To put the plant’s water use in perspective, 500 million gallons a day is about the same as what all of metro Atlanta uses daily. During times of drought, it is more water than flows down the Coosa each day.

In fact, Plant Hammond is one of only two Georgia Power operated plants in the state that still rely on what’s called “once-through cooling.” Water from the river is used to cool the power generating system and keep the electricity flowing. This 1950s technology has no place in the 21st century.

Thankfully, it appears relief for the Coosa is on the way. Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division (EPD), which regulates the plant now says that it expects to require new cooling technology at the facility. The state agency will review the company’s pollution permits this year and changes should follow soon.

Georgia Power, for its part, acknowledges that changes may be on the way. It has possible construction of a cooling tower planned for 2019.

Recently adopted federal river protections also point to a new cooling tower at the plant.

What would the changes mean? Plant Hammond’s withdrawal from the Coosa would drop to about 30 million gallons a day and the warm water discharge would be eliminated. Oxygen levels in the river should revive and the number of fish sucked to their death at the plant’s intake pipes should fall dramatically.

Of course, it’s not cheap. Georgia Power estimates the cost of building a cooling tower at Plant Hammond in the $160 million range—a cost that ultimately gets passed on to customers.

Striped bass: The Coosa's top sport fish is threatened by the massive water withdrawal at Plant Hammond. During the fishes' peak spawning period as many as 24 million fish eggs and larvae can be sucked into the pipes at Plant Hammond where they likely perish.

Striped bass: The Coosa’s top sport fish is threatened by the massive water withdrawal at Plant Hammond. During the fishes’ peak spawning period as many as 24 million fish eggs and larvae can be sucked into the pipes at Plant Hammond where they likely perish.

But, restoring a river is worth a few cents on a monthly bill. We like the electricity that Georgia Power provides, for sure; but we also like healthy rivers where we can catch big catfish and striped bass.

EPD has known about this problem for decades, and in a 2004 state “cleanup plan” for the Coosa, the agency recommended that a cooling tower be installed at Plant Hammond. More than a decade later, the fish continue to die.

The Coosa fish kill tragedy has continued for far, far too long. EPD and Georgia Power need to follow through with their commitment to end it—sooner, rather than later.

Burwell Creek wetlands wearing an wintry dress.

Burwell Creek wetlands wearing an wintry dress.

It took six years, more than 1,000 signatures on a petition, multiple meetings with state and federal environmental regulators, untold phone calls and e-mails and considerable time and money, but in the end it appears the Coosa River Basin Initiative and citizen advocates have finally secured some measure of protection for wetlands threatened by the proposed Citi Center shopping center along Riverside Parkway.

Of course, as CRBI has pointed out throughout this effort, the law was on the citizens’ side.

Federal laws require that when developers build in wetlands, they must design their project to “minimize impacts” to these environmentally-sensitive lands that help keep our rivers clean and prevent flooding.

Floodwaters cover proposed building sites in the Burwell Creek floodplain.

Floodwaters cover proposed building sites in the Burwell Creek floodplain.

The earliest versions of the development plans minimized nothing, filling in all the wetlands on the site; the latest version preserves about 84 percent of the Burwell Creek wetlands. Hometown developer, Ledbetter Properties, is to be commended for listening to its neighbors and following the law.

That said, there is still much that could be done to improve this development and integrate it into adjoining parkland. After all, a 2001 study commissioned by the city recommended using the land to create “Rome’s Central Park.” Natural corridors along Burwell Creek and through adjacent wetlands, accompanied by walking trails and boardwalks, would connect Ridge Ferry Park and Jackson Hill and make the property something more than just another big box shopping center.

To achieve these improvements, the Rome City Commission must take action…and they should, given what the Commission is asking of taxpayers.

New Citi Center Site Plans

New Citi Center Site Plans

First, the Commission has agreed to sell the property to Ledbetter Properties—some 80 acres of city-owned greenspace—for $600,000 ($7,500 per acre). Comparable commercial property has recently sold for more than $100,000 per acre.

The fire-sale price was agreed upon largely because of the costs involved in developing in wetlands and upon more than 50 acres of floodplain, including the cost of cleaning up an abandoned city landfill on the property. Unfortunately for city taxpayers, the City’s memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Ledbetter Properties outlines that they–not Ledbetter Properties–will be on the hook for much of these development costs through Tax Allocation District (TAD) financing.

Participants in CRBI's 7 Hills 3 Rivers Adventure Race splash through Burwell Creek.

Participants in CRBI’s 7 Hills 3 Rivers Adventure Race splash through Burwell Creek.

In fact, the MOU even requires the City to reimburse Ledbetter Properties for “wetlands delineation and mitigation” expenses—costs that have nothing to do with fixing the old city landfill and would be incurred at virtually any large development project.

To date Ledbetter Properties has spent more than $1 million on the project; it is still unclear how much of those expenses might be reimbursed by the city. Likewise, the $1-3 million bill for “fixing” the landfill will be picked up by taxpayers.

Commissioner Wendy Davis, at the commission’s Nov. 24 meeting, astutely raised questions about these issues and learned that because the developer does not have cash on hand to pay these expenses, the city will be forced to issue a bond to fund the development. This is more bad news for city taxpayers. Because TAD bonds are inherently more risky, the city will pay a higher interest rate on this bond, resulting in increased finance charges on this debt.

TAD financing is a sweet deal for the developer and a sour deal for taxpayers. If the same shopping center were built elsewhere, the city would realize not only the benefits of new jobs and increased sales tax revenues, but also substantial increases in property tax revenue.

Under TAD financing, property taxes generated by Citi Center will be diverted from city coffers to pay off the TAD bond. These taxes that might otherwise fund schools or pay police officers and firefighters, could be diverted for a period of up to 30 years.

Spring in the Burwell Creek property. CRBI is encouraging Ledbetter Properties and the City of Rome to preserve natural corridors through the Burwell Creek property to connect adjacent city parks: Jackson Hill and Ridge Ferry Park.

Spring in the Burwell Creek property. CRBI is encouraging Ledbetter Properties and the City of Rome to preserve natural corridors through the Burwell Creek property to connect adjacent city parks: Jackson Hill and Ridge Ferry Park.

Romans might get another big box retailer, but we also loose a beautiful natural area in the heart of our city while being collared with millions of dollars in unnecessary debt.

If taxpayers are to give up this much, the Rome City Commission should demand that the Citi Center project expands Rome’s recreational trail system by preserving natural corridors along Burwell Creek and through adjacent wetlands.

Oostanaula River

The City of Rome is blessed with abundant water supplies in the Etowah, Oostanaula and Coosa rivers, but more efficient use of these resources can translate into economic growth without some of the associated public costs of that growth.

In September, the Coosa River Basin Initiative presented a report to the Rome City Commission detailing how the city could reduce water use by 28 percent by implementing a handful of common sense water efficiency measures.

For instance, if homeowners in some 14,000 of the city’s residences replaced just one old water-wasting toilet with a new high efficiency toilet, 430,000 gallons of water could be saved daily. Add up the other measures detailed in the report and 1.7 million gallons a day could be saved.

Understandably, the water department and the commission are reluctant to pursue many of the measures suggested by CRBI. During recent years, revenues have declined steeply as large water users (Mohawk, Northwest Georgia Regional Hospital and others) have closed their doors. At a time when revenue is down, why would the department want its customers to purchase even less water? And, why conserve when we have abundant water? After all, about 19 billion gallons a day flows down the Coosa, and the city pumps only about 7 million daily.

Currently, Water Department Director Leigh Ross and his crews are balancing the cost of implementing water efficiency measures with the benefits derived from those investments. An ongoing leak detection program aims to reduce water loss in the system to 10 percent. Currently, the city can’t account for about 1 out of every five gallons it pumps from the river due to leaks and other losses). This important work must continue.

The sun drops behind the Robert Redden footbridge at the mouth of the Oostanaula River in downtown Rome. Photo by Amos Tuck

The sun drops behind the Robert Redden footbridge at the mouth of the Oostanaula River in downtown Rome. Photo by Amos Tuck

But, over the long-haul, state and local governments—and citizens—must do more to use existing water supplies more efficiently. Today’s cost-effective investments in water efficiency can prevent high-cost investments in new pipes and water treatment facilities down the road.

For example, in recent years Rome has spent some $30 million to upgrade and increase the capacity of its sewage treatment plant. If the city can grow while keeping water use near current levels, further expansion of that plant can be postponed or forestalled indefinitely—saving taxpayers millions.

Around the country, other communities have shown that aggressive water efficiency measures pay dividends. Boston avoided $500 million in water system expansions by investing $40 million in water efficiency measures. Likewise, New York City avoided $200 million in costs associated with expanding its water system by replacing some 1.3 million water-wasting toilets.

It’s simple: better use of existing water supplies saves us money—as individuals and as collective taxpayers.

Unfortunately, that much ballyhooed “culture of conservation” that we heard so much about during recent record droughts has been slow to take hold—both at local and state levels.

During the past three years, Gov. Nathan Deal’s administration has thrown $196 million at new dams and water supply reservoirs—many of questionable need. Meanwhile state funding for water efficiently has been anemic. From 2010 to early 2013, the administration funneled just $10.7 million to help local governments better use existing water supplies.

The state must do more to facilitate water conservation and efficiency programs, and at the local level, leaders must act to implement these programs. Becoming a more water efficient community translates into economic growth without many of the high-cost public investments associated with that growth.

Water conservation makes financial sense and insures that our most vital resource will be available in abundance for our children and grandchildren.

CRBI's Swimmable Water Action Day event attracted more than 50 tubers, floaters and swimmers to downtown Rome.

CRBI’s Swimmable Water Action Day event attracted more than 50 tubers, floaters and swimmers to downtown Rome.

While bicycling along the Oostanaula River recently, I slipped beneath the bypass at Rome’s State Mutual Stadium to find a bobcat nestled in the grass, stalking, I presume, one the many rabbits that call that area home.

I have traveled thousands of miles in wilderness settings, hiking trails and paddling rivers, and it takes a leisurely ride down a paved city bike trail to see my first bobcat in the wild.

I’ll take it as a talisman of the good things that are happening on and along our rivers.

During the past two weekends, the Coosa River Basin Initiative (CRBI) led more than 220 people down local rivers on canoe trips and floats (See photos from Aug. 2 Etowah River Paddle). Down in Euharlee, Ron Thomas at Euharlee Creek Outfitters reports that his tube, kayak and canoe rental business on the Etowah is the best its ever been.

People are returning to our rivers—and discovering them for the first time—in droves. And, it’s about to get even easier to experience these watery treasures.

Upstream from Euharlee, the City of Cartersville just completed—with financial assistance from CRBI—a new canoe and kayak launch at Ga. 113. And, within the next few weeks, Bartow County, in partnership with CRBI, will break ground on a much-needed public boat launch and parking area on the Etowah at US 411 between Rome and Cartersville.

Taking the plunge into the Etowah River near Cartersville.

Taking the plunge into the Etowah River near Cartersville.

After each of the trips we led during the past two weekends, we heard comments like: “Why we haven’t done this before?” “We had a blast!” and “I never knew!”

If you grew up between 1950 and 1980, it is likely that you view our rivers as waste receptacles—scary places filled with sewage, industrial waste and all manner of filth. For the better part of the 20th century, they were just that. But in 1972, Congress passed the Clean Water Act, and since then we have eliminated much of the pollutants that once tainted our rivers.

In Rome, where toilet paper, raw sewage and textile waste once floated downstream, last weekend some 50 swimmers floated on tubes and pool lounges, splashing and diving and dipping in the water. (See the Swimmable Water Action Day Video on You Tube)

If you are a child of the 21st century your view of the river is likely much different than your parents or grandparents.

Earlier this year, after CRBI volunteers led a group of students from the Murphy-Harpst Children’s Home on a 13-mile paddle down the Oostanaula River, we received this note from one of the group’s chaperones:

“At one point the young man in my boat told me “thank you.” When I asked why, he said, “For letting me go.” I asked if he had a good time, and he said: “Someday when I have a family, I am going to do this with them. It’s the best day I ever had.”

This from a young man whose own family had been torn apart by dysfunction and abuse.

Over the past 40 years, communities have taken action to improve the health of our rivers. Now those cleaner, swimmable rivers are changing people.

There’s still plenty of time left this summer to get out and experience our rivers. CRBI has five paddle trips, an Adventure Race and a cleanup planned before the end of September, and on Aug 23 you can take a ride on a power boat or float a homemade raft down our rivers during CRBI’s River Revelry—A Biodiversity Bash.

Step into the water and see what our rivers can do for you.

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