Riverkeeper asks for funding from County Commission

Published 5:00 am Friday, April 19, 2019

The Chattahoochee Riverkeeper kicked off budget requests on Thursday at the Troup County Board of Commissioners Budget Work Session, asking for funds to help local students and to monitor local water quality, while reporting on the status of those projects.

The Chattahoochee Riverkeeper request of $6,000 was well below the amount of many of the other requests discussed Thursday, and Middle Chattahoochee Director Henry Jacobs explained what the organization hopes to do with the funds.

“The request that we submit to y’all is to support three programs that are really the cornerstones of our work here in this community — the West Point Lake floating classroom, neighborhood water watch and nutrient monitoring on West Point Lake,” Jacobs said.

The funding for the West Point Lake floating classroom would subsidize the cost to local sixth grade students that take part in an educational boat trip on the lake.

“We want to serve every sixth-grade student in the Troup County School System on an annual basis,” Jacobs said. “That is something we feel very strongly about, and we are forming a great public-private partnership coalition to fund that, because we want to give every kid an equal opportunity.”

Jacobs said that in addition to teaching students about the lake and river, the program reinforces what they learn at school.

“The program itself lines up with sixth-grade science and the curriculum that is being taught in the schools with the Georgia Standards of Excellence, so teachers are coming back year after year because what we are talking about on the water is reinforcing what they are teaching in the classroom,” Jacobs said.

According to Jacobs, it costs about $32 per student per ride on the floating classroom, with a large portion of that cost subsidized by local groups. He said the goal is to provide the program at no cost to the students. The commissioners have heard about Chattahoochee Riverkeeper every year, but this year one of the commissioners was able to share what he had learned about the impact the program has on local students.

“My wife works at Long Cane Middle in the sixth grade, and she was able to go recently on one of your classroom trips,” Commissioner Lewis Davis said. “She said the kids got a lot out of it, and she said it was a really good event for the kids.”

Jacobs also confirmed that after discussions with members of TCSS, $10,000 in funding was put into the school system budget for the next school year. However, that school system budget has not yet been approved.

“I think a strong case has been made, and $10,000 will fund about a third of the cost it will take to bring all sixth-grade students on the floating classroom in the coming school year,” Jacobs said.

He said that roughly 750 sixth-grade students ride on the floating classroom each year, and a total of around 13,000 students and adults have been served through the program.

Jacobs also talked about the impact of the Neighborhood Water Watch program, which has been successfully used to monitor the health of creeks and identify issues, including the detection of a sewer leak in LaGrange on Wednesday. He also explained the role of nutrient monitoring in tracking the health of West Point Lake.

Commissioner Ellis Cadenhead asked if Chattahoochee Riverkeeper had reached out to Diverse Power for financial support, and Jacobs said that the company is also sponsoring the floating classroom. Jacobs also noted that the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper also receives support from the Charter Foundation, the City of LaGrange and individual donors.

The Troup County Board of Commissioners did not vote on any budget items on Thursday.