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Paddle Georgia participants luxuriate in a Conasauga River shoal. During the seven-day, 103-mile journey there was as much swimming as there was paddling.

On June 24, more than 300 participants of Georgia River Network’s Paddle Georgia 2016 stroked into Rome, completing a 7-day, 103-mile canoe and kayak journey down the Conasauga and Oostanaula rivers.

Two days later the Rome News-Tribune ran a story headlined: “Rome’s rivers grow in popularity,” noting the increased use of the rivers by tubers, kayakers and paddleboarders.

To this, we can say, “My, how things have changed!” And, for the better.

In 1974 also in the Rome News-Tribune, Rome historian Roger Aycock lamented the loss of river recreation that was an integral part of many Romans’ lives during the middle part of the 20th century. From the 1920s through the 1950s, it was common for families and scouting groups to take boating and fishing excursions on the Oostanaula River.

Sadly, by the mid 1960s, pollution from upstream carpet mills had fouled the river such that Romans turned their backs to it. For the generation of Romans than came of age between 1960 and 1990, the rivers were viewed as a place largely unfit for swimming and fishing.

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John Linotoc of Rome shows off a large-mouth bass he landed during Paddle Georgia 2016 on the Conasauga River.

Wrote Aycock in a Jan. 6, 1974 issue of the paper: “Pollution from civic and industrial sources have largely destroyed the once idyllic pursuit of river fishing and camping…Still, the old potential for sport and pleasure remains. With the completion of sewage disposal projects…some portion of that pleasure in our outdoor life may be available again—if not to our generation, which has permitted its decline, then perhaps to our children, who may restore it.”

As it turns out, Aycock’s words were prophetic. Passage and enforcement of the federal Clean Water Act, local industries and municipalities taking wastewater treatment seriously and the advocacy efforts of organizations like the Coosa River Basin Initiative have, in fact, revived the Oostanaula.

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Upper Coosa Riverkeeper Amos Tuck (foreground in hat) leads Paddle Georgia participants in mussel grubbing on a Conasauga River sandbar. The group found multiple species at the site.

Last week, as Paddle Georgia participants made their way to Rome, there was as much swimming as paddling. Mussels were found; fish were caught. When they drifted past Drowning Bear Creek, the Conasauga River tributary that was once thick with offal from the carpet industry, they found a crystal clear stream teaming with fish.

Yet, there is still work to do. Recently, we learned of the dangers of PFOAs and PFOS, toxins associated with the manufacture of stain-resistent carpet. While they are no longer in use, they persist in the Oostanaula River and earlier this year forced the city of Rome to begin relying more heavily on water from the Etowah.

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Carol McNavish of Houston, Texas shows her love for the Oostanaula River’s fish fauna, giving an Alabama hogsucker a peck.

And, while Paddle Georgia participants marveled at the mussels and fish they found in the river, biologists who study these creatures fear the river’s mussel populations are steadily declining, and they have recently found disturbing evidence of hormone disruption in fish that may be linked to agricultural practices along the river.

In 1540, when Hernando De Soto visited the Native American village of Chiaha (believed to be where Rome now sits) the visiting Spaniard was presented with a strand of freshwater pearls six feet long with each pearl the size of hazelnut. For our rivers’ mussels to have produced pearls of this size and in this abundance is a testament to the richness that De Soto must have encountered, and sadly, a reminder of all that we have lost.

Even into the late 1800s local residents were still finding pearls in mussels, and it may have been the search for these rare treasures that contributed to the decimation of mussel populations.

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Paddle Georgia participants luxuriate in a Conasauga River shoal. During the seven-day, 103-mile journey there was as much swimming as there was paddling.

Today, you’d be hard-pressed to find a single pearl treasure in the Oosantaula’s freshwater mussels—they simply are not abundant enough.

Still, the good news is that within a generation, the Oostanaula has been largely restored. It remains to be seen whether the river’s aquatic diversity and rich mussel populations can be saved and restored, but for sure, those paddlers that are now venturing on it are becoming the advocates that may ultimately bring about full restoration of the Oostanaula.

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Georgia’s rivers didn’t make headlines during the 2016 legislative session, largely because leadership kept bills aimed at protecting our rivers bottled up in committee.

In vetoing the controversial “religious freedom” bill this week, Gov. Nathan Deal sided once again with the most powerful force in Georgia politics—business.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Josh McKoon, responded on Atlanta’s WABE Radio saying, “If we’re going to allow a handful of business executives largely from outside of our state to dictate public policy, I mean, I would argue we could do away with the kind of quaint elections that we have. We may as well just auction off seats in the legislature.”

My response: “Welcome to our world, Sen. McKoon.”

When it comes to protecting Georgia’s environment, at the Georgia Capitol it seems big business always has the last say. Time and time again, common sense measures that protect our water, our communities and our use and enjoyment of our private and public lands fail because of opposition from powerful business interests that have the ear of the governor and many of our legislators.

Regrettably, we live in a state where “environment” and “protection” are four-letter words.

While this year’s session provided some surprising votes to protect Georgia’s water and land as well as property owners, the most important environmental legislation never even made it to the chambers for a vote. Here’s a look at the good, bad and ugly.

THE GOOD

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Efforts to stop a natural gas pipeline through southwest Georgia and a petroleum pipeline through coastal Georgia found traction during this year’s General Assembly session.

Georgia’s legislators took a stand against the use of eminent domain by petroleum and natural gas pipeline companies and for protecting our water. First, they passed HB 1036, a measure that puts a temporary moratorium on the construction of the controversial Palmetto petroleum pipeline through coastal Georgia.

Then, in a highly animated debate in the House, Republican representatives, in a mini-revolt, bucked Gov. Deal and removed state property easements for the Sabal Trail natural gas pipeline through southwest Georgia from a routine resolution (SR 954) conveying easements on public land to private companies.

In this case, the easements would have put the pipeline builders one step closer to using eminent domain to take private property and build their gas line through a region susceptible to sinkholes. A spill, leak or explosion along the line could pollute drinking water for hundreds of thousands of Georgians.

Coosa River Basin legislators overwhelming supported the call to stop the Sabal Trail pipeline from securing state easements, and Rep. John Meadows of Calhoun, who chairs the powerful House Rules Committee, played a key role in stripping the Sabal easements from the larger resolution.

THE BAD

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A measure to insure that all of Georgia’s streams are protected by a 25-foot natural buffer failed to move out of the House Natural Resources Committee.

A simple measure to clarify Georgia’s stream buffer laws and another measure to fill gaps in protections of Georgia’s groundwater never saw the light of day.

Existing Georgia law says that all of the state’s streams must be protected by a natural buffer—or no build zone—to protect our water and downstream property owners. Unfortunately, Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division does not enforce this law in certain situations. HB 966 would have corrected this problem. Following instructions from on high, the House Natural Resources Committee Chairperson, Rep. Lynn Smith, kept the bill bottled up in committee. Click here to view a youtube video about this issue.

SB 36, a bill to fix gaps in groundwater protection laws, met a similar fate in Rep. Smith’s committee. How wide are the gaps? Right now, an oil company could frack for natural gas in Georgia without ever revealing what chemicals it is injecting in the ground and without any requirements to monitor groundwater to insure their work is not contaminating nearby well water.

CRBI will be working in advance of the 2017 legislative session to address the shortcomings in state deep well drilling act and underground injection codes.

THE UGLY

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Legislators failed to vote on a measure that would have led to the restoration of funding to clean up illegal tire dumps across the state.

Perhaps the biggest disappointment of the session was the failure of HR 502. This resolution would have put an end to the annual looting of so called “fee for service” programs. Each year, Georgians pay millions in fees that go into the state’s general fund where state leaders are supposed to allocate that money to fund things like public defenders, drivers education programs and clean ups of illegal tire dumps or leaking landfills. But, year after year, these programs that legislators promised would be funded through these fees, get shortchanged.

For instance, since 2005, nearly $140 million that was supposed to be used to clean up illegal tire dumps and other sites contaminated with hazardous waste has been used to fund other portions of the state budget. In the private sector, that’s fraud and lands you in jail, but in state government it’s business as usual. Click here to read an Atlanta Journal Constitution story about this issue. 

Next year, with a new legislative body, we’ll hope we can correct this year’s failures, but it will be an uphill climb because when it comes to Georgia’s General Assembly under the Deal administration, it will likely be business as usual.

Joe Cook

Advocacy & Communication Coordinator

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Griffin Creek in Paulding County shows impacts of upstream development and stormwater pollution.

Last week, I visited Debbie and Mike Parsons of Paulding County at their home along Griffin Creek just outside the city of Dallas. We walked their property and I heard stories of their dreams and desires for the home they built in the 1980s overlooking a pretty Piedmont stream on property that has been in the family since the mid 20th century.

There was talk of a picnic area beside a small waterfall on the creek, barbecues on the back patio and grandchildren playing in the cold, clear stream.

But then something happened in Paulding County during the 1990s and early 2000s—unbridled growth.

The City of Dallas laid a sewer line through their backyard to accommodate this growth. Sewage fumes wafting from manhole covers ran the barbecuers indoors.

Sewage overflows caused by a wastewater system inadequate to handle the burgeoning suburbs around Dallas soon followed.

Meanwhile, land clearing and development upstream sent plumes of mud and sediment into their backyard play place. Stormwater surges from the developed landscape upstream still pound Griffin Creek, eroding its banks and carrying litter and other refuse through the Parson’s property.

They now tell the grandchildren not to play in the creek.

Earlier this year, the City of Dallas opened a new, and long overdue, modern $18 million sewage treatment plant that should alleviate the Parsons’ sewage overflow problems, but the damage done to Griffin Creek from upstream development is likely irreparable.

As the Georgia General Assembly debates bills to protect Georgia’s streams over the final weeks of the session, the Parsons’ dilemma is a cautionary tale of lax water protection laws and even more lax enforcement of these laws.

In the coming weeks, legislators will look at good bills seeking to restore protections for the state’s streams and rivers and enact rules to protect the state’s groundwater drinking sources. Unfortunately, legislators will also consider a bill that seeks to weaken the very review process that prevents land development projects from destroying streams with sediment and polluted run off. Here’s a look at those bills–good and bad:

First, the good. House Bill 966, introduced Feb. 10 by Rep. Johnnie Caldwell (R-Thomaston) will amend the state’s Erosion and Sedimentation Act to restore buffer protections for those rivers and streams that lack something called “wrested vegetation.” The Act, as it currently reads, provides a mandatory natural 25-foot buffer or “no build zone” along the edge of streams, but only where the stream shows a clear line of “wrested vegetation”—the point at which the force of the water prevents plants from growing.

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Votes in the Georgia General Assembly will determine whether Georgia’s rivers and streams and our drinking water are afforded stronger protections.

The problem is on slow-moving streams, especially in south Georgia, there are many places where there is no clear line of “wrested vegetation” and in these situations Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division has determined that there is no mandatory 25-foot buffer.

The legislature should fix this problem by passing HB 966.

Likewise, our state leaders should act on Senate Bill 36, a bill that requires the Department of Natural Resources to establish rules protecting the state’s groundwater resources. The bill passed the Senate last year in overwhelming fashion, but has since been stuck in the House Natural Resources Committee.

Finally, state legislators should put an unceremonious end to SB 326, a proposal that would give local governments just 14 days to review erosion control plans for large developments. These often-complicated plans are supposed to keep dirt and sediment out of local streams and rivers. Reviews routinely involve visits to the proposed development site and reviewers often require changes to improve the plans. Its a tedious process, but one that helps insure our water is protected. Currently, local governments are allowed 45 days for these reviews; cutting that period to two weeks would result in many plans being automatically approved without being reviewed.

Say what you want about “big government,” Georgia’s water laws should be about protecting the little guy—property owners like the Parsons who only want to enjoy their backyard stream and don’t want it polluted by an upstream developer.

Joe Cook, CRBI Advocacy & Communication Coordinator

If you’d like to get involved in urging legislators to do the right thing for our water, join CRBI and the Georgia Water Coalition for Capitol Conservation Day, Wednesday, Feb. 17. To register to participate, contact Joe Cook at jcook@coosa.org.

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Paddlers explore the Burwell Creek floodplain during the “Holiday FLood of 2015.”

Mother Nature has impeccable timing. Just a couple of weeks before newly elected Rome City Commissioners were to be sworn in, some eight inches of rain fell on Rome and North Georgia raising Rome’s three rivers to heights not seen since the 1990s.

It was as if she was casting her own ballot on the issue that motivated Rome voters in the November election, leading to the removal of one long-time city commissioner and the election of two new commissioners.

That issue, of course, is whether or not a large tract of city-owned floodplain and wetlands surrounding Burwell Creek and adjacent to Riverside Parkway should be filled and developed into a strip mall dubbed “City Center.”

The rain that fell lifted the Oostanaula River to nearly 30 feet—the biggest flood since March 1990. Floodwater spilled out of the river’s banks, covering Ridge Ferry Park, and creeping into the fields, pastures and yards of property owners in low-lying areas. Thankfully, there was limited serious property damage.

If not for Rome’s levee system and the dams at Carters and Allatoona lakes, it could have been much worse.

As for the city’s Burwell Creek property, it filled as did the rest of the area’s still undeveloped floodplain. If not for these places, it could have been much worse.

How much water does the 50 acres of floodplain adjacent to Burwell Creek hold? Lots. During the peak of the flood, portions of the proposed City Center development site were under at least 14 feet of water. By conservative estimates, the area held more than 130 million gallons of water at that flood level—enough to fill nearly 200 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

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This USGS graph shows Oostanaula River flood elevations since 2006. Floodwaters have spread over the Burwell Creek wetlands on at least 50 occasions since 2009. 

And, this flood was by no means the “big one.” During Rome’s worst flood on record, the Oostanaula topped out at 40 feet, and even since the construction of Carters Dam upstream in 1977, the Oostanaula has reached above 30 feet three times.

In fact, the Burwell Creek floodplain begins filling at river elevations of just 16 feet, a high water mark that happens regularly. Since 2009, the Burwell Creek floodplain has filled on at least 50 occasions.

Remember, this is the very place hometown developers Ledbetter Properties want to build a strip mall. To keep their retail center dry, they’ll have to fill those 50 acres with at least 20 feet of dirt. Once built, floodwater will instead be routed to giant holding ponds adjacent to the retail center.

Will these holding ponds protect us during the “big one?” if engineered on a grand scale correctly, presumably so.

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Paddlers explore the Burwell Creek floodplain during the “Holiday FLood of 2015.”

However, the better question to ask is: should the city support and even finance this engineering when it could preserve the property and the important services it provides that were so clearly illustrated during the “Holiday Flood of 2015.”

In November, Rome voters sent a clear message to the City Commission with more than 60 percent of the vote cast in support of preserving this land. An online poll performed by the Rome News-Tribune following the election showed 85 percent support for preserving “Rome’s Central Park.” Even developers that last September were considering building an apartment complex overlooking Burwell Creek have now cast their lot elsewhere.

Though Mother Nature has cast her vote, she doesn’t have the final say. Only the Rome City Commission can prevent the destruction of the city’s Burwell Creek floodplain and wetlands. If the election results didn’t speak to them, perhaps the flood did.

Chad Johnfroe, President

CRBI Board of Directors

“Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government;…whenever things get so far wrong as to attract their notice, they may be relied on to set them to rights.” –Thomas Jefferson

When the Coosa River Basin Initiative (CRBI) was first organized in the early 1990s, these words of our 3rd president were printed on every newsletter and virtually every correspondence.

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Social media posts like this one from the Save Rome’s Central Park group helped sway voters opinions on the effort to develop 80 acres of city-owned greenspace during the 2015 Rome City Commission Election. 

The results from the recent Rome City Commission election are a testament to Jefferson’s words. In a day when citizens often feel powerless in the face of corporate lobbying and spending on election campaigns both big and small, a small group of dedicated citizens called Save Rome’s Central Park (SRCP) changed the outcome of our local election.

The stated goal of this group was to elect the three challengers and to send a message to the incumbent commissioners by encouraging citizens to withhold their votes for these public servants.

The results—whether you agreed or disagreed with the effort to save Rome’s “Central Park” or approved or disapproved of the group’s strategy and tactics—showed that democracy is alive and well in our town.

Voter turnout, while still abysmal overall, was twice the turnout in surrounding communities. Of the 16,098 votes that could have been cast (each of the 2,683 citizens that cast ballots could vote for six candidates), only 6,357 went to the five incumbents (39.5 percent). The three challengers received 4,562 votes, and two of them were elected garnering more votes than any of the incumbents. Meanwhile, 5,179 votes were withheld. Assuming that all of those votes were votes of “no confidence” for incumbents, that means 60.5 percent of the “votes” cast were anti-incumbent votes. Had the SRCP group had more challengers to support, it’s not a stretch to say that we would have elected even more new commissioners.

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The Burwell Creek wetlands in winter with Riverside Parkway in the background. Voters sent a clear message to the Rome City Commission that they want this land preserved rather than developed.

This election became a referendum on the controversial issue of what to do with the 80 acres of city-owned land along Riverside Parkway and opposite Ridge Ferry Park. The incumbents that were up for reelection have steadfastly supported the conversion of this floodplain and wetlands into a strip mall development called “City Center.”

While CRBI hosted a candidates’ forum that touched on a broad range of issues, CRBI did not advocate for or against any candidates in this election. In fact, federal laws prohibit non-profit organizations like CRBI from engaging in such activity.

That said, CRBI has worked for eight years to educate Rome’s citizens and its elected officials about the problems with the proposed project. Filling in floodplain and wetlands is always a bad idea for the health of our rivers; it’s an especially bad idea when the property could be preserved to create what could be Rome’s “Central Park.”

More often than not over the past eight years, many Commissioners dismissed CRBI’s protests as merely the grumblings of a tiny minority, confident that a majority of Romans supported the City Center development. With these election results, the Commission can no longer realistically have that confidence.

A broad base of citizens supported the SRCP effort—conservative, liberal, black, white, young, old, business owners, waitresses, teachers etc. News flash: there’s not enough river-loving environmentalists in Rome to deliver these kind of results.

CRBI will continue to work with the new Rome City Commission to secure the best possible outcome for this property. Whatever is done, be it preserved or developed, the plan chosen should be one that protects our rivers, preserves our floodplain, addresses any pollution issues associated with the old city landfill and—most importantly—reflects the will of Rome’s citizens.

The recent election made it abundantly clear what that will is.

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The Burwell Creek wetlands hold water almost year round thanks to an active beaver population.

On Sept. 28, the Rome City Commission in a 5-2 vote agreed to rezone 11 acres of city-owned property along Riverside Parkway opposite Ridge Ferry Park for the construction of an upscale apartment complex and a restaurant. This would be the first phase of a much larger 80-acre project known as “City Center.”

Approval of rezoning does not mean the project is a “done deal.” Before any dirt is moved the City Commission must approve a master development plan for all 80 acres.

The developer, Ledbetter Properties, must also secure federal environmental permits, and because the project involves cleaning up an abandoned city landfill, Ledbetter Properties must also get a cleanup plan approved by the state.

Citizens opposed to this project still have many opportunities to alter or even stop it.

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The most recent master plan of development for City Center. The proposed apartments approved by the City Commission would have been placed in the top right hand corner of this image adjacent to Riverside Parkway. 

CRBI, for its part, has worked consistently during the past seven years to educate the public and the City Commission about the problems with this proposed development. The organization, with more than 3,500 members, opposes the project because it will destroy sensitive land that keeps our rivers clean and provides homes for a host of wildlife—from fish and frogs to beavers and bears (yes, a bear was once spotted scurrying into this natural hideaway).

More importantly, in this 80-acre tract of land the city has the opportunity to create Rome’s “Central Park,” an expanse of woods and greenspace stretching from historic Jackson Hill to the Oostanaula River, connected by recreational trails spanning the Burwell Creek wetlands.

A study paid for by the city and released in 2001 recommended that very thing. From that report: the development “of Jackson Hill within this overarching theme of rivers and water will create opportunities to connect the site thematically and physically with other city parks, thus achieving the long-term goal for a central park.”

This study was set aside when Ledbetter Properties approached the city with their City Center proposal. Current plans for the project include a connective trail between Jackson Hill and Ridge Ferry Park, and the hometown developer has agreed to preserve most of the wetlands adjacent to Burwell Creek. This is considerable progress over their initial plan that called for filling the entire area, and it represents a compromise that would preserve some critical natural areas and provide recreational opportunities for area residents.

But, at CRBI, that’s not what we hear that citizens want. They want the city to preserve the floodplain forest and wetlands and create more parkland. They have good reason to feel this way.

In addition to forfeiting a unique natural area, what the City Commission is contemplating amounts to a giant government hand out—our small town version of corporate welfare.

Nearly a decade ago, the city negotiated a price of $600,000 for the 80-acre tract, or about $7000 an acre, a bargain basement price that took into account the presence of the old city landfill.

But, guess who pays for the old city dump cleanup? You guessed it! City taxpayers. The entire 80-acre project is part of a tax allocation district (TAD) created at Ledbetter Properties’ request. As a TAD development, the city will issue bonds to pay for the landfill fix and other development costs; those bonds will be paid off with property taxes that Ledbetter Properties pays on the finished project—property taxes that would otherwise go to pay for critical city services.

It’s as if you gave the buyer of your house a discount knowing that he’d soon have to replace the roof only to have that same buyer ask you to pay for the roof replacement. If the project were built elsewhere, the city would immediately realize new property tax revenues.

And, here’s the kicker: the old city landfill doesn’t need to be cleaned up. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, after reviewing all the data on hazardous substances in the dump, labeled the site: NFRAP—no further remedial action planned.

This is a bad deal for our rivers, and it’s a bad deal for local residents. The city commission should end its longstanding courtship with Ledbetter Properties and find a new bride for its Burwell Creek property.

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.