June 23, 2014
Recently the Regional Business Coalition of Metropolitan Atlanta, in conjunction with the Georgia Association of Water Professionals and the Council for Quality Growth, hosted a luncheon to discuss the Army Corps of Engineers’ role in determining metro Atlanta’s and Georgia’s future water supply.
U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, Georgia EPD Director Jud Turner and Army Corps of Engineers Regional Commander Colonel Jon Chytka spoke to a packed house of almost 150 business leaders, environmental activists, elected officials and water professionals about the importance of working with the Army Corps as they update the Master Water Control Manual for the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (ACF) river basin.
This update, poised to establish metro Atlanta’s and Georgia’s future water supply, is long overdue as the last approved Master Water Control Manual for the ACF was completed in 1958. The water allocation the Army Corps establishes in this manual will directly impact Gerogia’s future growth because nearly every county in western half of Georgia gets some, if not all their water, from Lake Lanier or the Chattahoochee or Flint rivers.
It is well known that in 2011 the US Court of Appeals overturned the Magnuson ruling and established that the Army Corps has the authority to allocate water from Lake Lanier and the Chattahoochee River for metro Atlanta’s future water supply. The metro Atlanta region still awaits the Army Corps’ decision on how much water can be withdrawn from those sources, which is what the water control manuals will do.
The U.S. Court of Appeals ruling directed the Army Corps to determine how much water should be allocated in Lake Lanier for metro Atlanta consumption while also balancing downstream needs on the Chattahoochee River. However, the outcome of the Army Corps’ decision is not yet clear.
The Corps could decide to allow the metro Atlanta region to withdraw enough water from Lake Lanier to meet present day demand, future demand or any other amount. While unlikely but possible, the Corps could even set withdrawal amounts equal to the demands existing 50 years ago when the original ACF water control manual was adopted. The Army Corps plans to complete their analysis of the water needs of the entire ACF basin by August of 2015 with public comment taken through September 2015. The final ACF Water Control Manual is planned for approval in November of 2016.
While the Army Corps presses forward with their mandate to update the ACF basin manual, Florida is attempting to bypass this process by suing Georgia in the US Supreme Court. All Georgians must be united in our opposition to this pre-emptive strike by Florida to both usurp the decisions of the US Court of Appeals and undermine the Army Corps efforts to balance the needs of all Georgia, Florida and Alabama residents.
Metro Atlanta’s and Georgia’s future growth depends on the Army Corps “getting it right” when they update the ACF basin Master Water Control Manual. Conversations between the Regional Business Coalition of Metropolitan Atlanta, the Georgia Association of Water Professionals, the Council for Quality Growth, state leaders and Army Corps of Engineers Regional Commander Colonel Jon Chytka confirmed that the way the Army Corps will “get it right” is by hearing and receiving input from all water users in the metro Atlanta region and throughout Georgia. Our organizations will continue a dialogue with state leaders and Colonel Chytka to acknowledge that both the metro Atlanta region and Georgia’s future growth depends on an updated Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint Water Control Manual that accounts for and allocates sufficient water for metro Atlanta while balancing the needs of all Georgia, Florida and Alabama residents.