Two bad water bills and six good ones in the Georgia legislature today

Flint Riverkeeper has a handy legislative update about water bills in the Georgia legislature, one bad one before committee today: SB 299.

SB 299 Natural Resources; provide flexibility for establishing watershed protection standards

This bill would actually do away with the riparian buffers that currently keep mud and sewage out of rivers and streams. It’s up for a vote today in the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and the Environment. At least one Senator on that committee is in WWALS watersheds: Tyler Harper, (404) 463-5263, (404) 463-4161 fax, Ocilla, District 7, (229) 425-4840. You can contact him or your state Senator. Here are many reasons SB 299 is a bad bill.

More reasons, by Camo Coalition, of the Georgia Wildlife Federation, starting with:

Siltation kills streams. Siltation can fill lakes making boat access difficult or impossible. Silt destroys the habitat of aquatic invertebrates—caddis flies, mayflies, stone flies, and such. Pollutants can kill fish and these aquatic animals directly. Destroy the food chain; destroy the fishery.

SB 213 Flint River Drought Protection Act

This bill is not anything like its name. It’s actually a water grab that would stuff Flint River water into our fragile Floridan Aquifer and during droughts take it back out, but not for downstream use, rather for shipping to Atlanta. Even though it’s a Senate bill, it’s currently in the House Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee, which has not yet convened this session, so now is a good time to contact your state rep. Those in WWALS watersheds include at least:
  1. Ellis Black, Valdosta, R-174, 404.656.0287,
  2. Amy Carter, Valdosta, R-175, 229.245.2733, 404.656.6801,
  3. Buddy Harden, Cordele, R-148, 404.656.0188,

The Flint River, #2 on American Rivers’ most endangered rivers list, is the next watershed to the west of us. If this bill passes, when will they come for the waters of the Little River, too?

Good Bills

Here are some good bills that need support, with descriptions from Georgia Water Coalition’s current legislative update, which covers the same bills as Flint Riverkeeper’s update.

Extending the Ban on Aquifer Storage and Recovery

SB 306 will permanently extend the existing moratorium, set to expire in July, 2014, that bans the use of Aquifer Storage and Recovery in the Floridian aquifer in 11 coastal counties.

The practice of injecting chemically treated wastewater, surface water, or ground water down into our pristine groundwater systems with the intent to withdraw it later is known as “aquifer storage and recovery” or “ASR.” Pumping chemically treated water underground threatens all Georgia aquifers, which hundreds of thousands of Georgians rely on for drinking water, and could lead to increased levels of arsenic that exceed drinking water quality standards and introduction of bacteria, pathogens and disinfection byproducts into Georgia’s aquifers.

STATUS: SB 306 has been assigned to the Senate Natural Resources and the Environment Committee. Senator Ross Tolleson, the Committee Chair, must bring the bill up for a vote for it to move forward.

ACTION NEEDED: Call your state Senator and ask them to support the passage of SB 306.

Reporting Returns of Withdrawals

HB 864 will require entities that have permits to withdraw from the state’s surface water to report how much of that water they return to the original source of withdrawal. Requiring permittees to report the amount of water they return to the original source will allow state and local entities, as well as the public, to be more informed when water management decisions are made.

STATUS: HB 864 has been assigned to the House Natural Resources and Environment Committee. Representative Lynn Smith, the Committee Chair, must bring the bill up for a vote for it to move forward.

ACTION NEEDED: Call your state Representative and ask them to support HB 864.

Improving Georgia’s Response to Emergency Pollution Spills

HB 549 will require EPD to maintain an emergency response program and help the division keep the program staffed and funded. The bill requires appropriate and timely responses to emergencies that threaten the state’s waters and proper public notification and coordination between the state and local communities to protect the health of our families during emergencies.

The Georgia Environmental Protection Division’s poor response to a rash of illegal spills and fish kills in Georgia’s waterways has shown that the agency no longer has the capacity to adequately respond to these emergencies. The recent chemical spill and contamination of the Elk River and Charleston, West Virginia’s water supply provide a serious reminder of why EPD’s capacity to respond to emergencies must be restored immediately.

STATUS: HB 549 is expected to have a hearing in a House Natural Resouces and Environment sub-committee. The sub-committee needs to pass the bill out with a “do pass” recommendation.

ACTION NEEDED: Contact your state Representative and ask them to support the passage of HB 549.

Protecting Communities from Land Application of Sewage Sludge

HB 741 was introduced to revise the definition of sludge, establish new requirements to ensure public hearings are held in the communities where sewage sludge will be land-applied, and to ensure that EPD permits to land-apply sewage sludge adhere to local zoning ordinances.

STATUS: HB 741 will be taken up by the House Natural Resources and Environment Committee on Thur. Feb. 6 at 8:00 AM.

ACTION NEEDED: Contact your state Representative and ask them to support the passage of HB 741.

Ensuring Wildlife Tag Funds Go to Fish and Wildlife Protection

HB 730 increases the amount of funding that goes to the Wildlife Resources Division from sale of wildlife license plates from $10 to $19 for new plate sales, and from $10 to $20 for renewals.

This is a much needed change that correctly restores the money spent by the public on the non-game wildlife, bobwhite quail, and trout license plates back to these fish and wildlife programs. A few years ago these specialty tag fees were diverted to the State’s general fund and sales of these specialty tags declined as a result.

STATUS: HB 730 has been assigned to the House Motor Vehicle Committee. Representative Tom Rice, the Committee Chair, must bring the bill up for a vote for it to move forward.

ACTION NEEDED: Contact your state Representative and ask them to support the passage of HB 730.