Council Hosts Successful Luncheon on Metro Atlanta’s Future Water Supply

On Monday, the Council, the Georgia Association of Water Professionals (GAWP), and the Regional Business Coalition, hosted a packed house with interested stakeholders for an event on Metro Atlanta’s future water supply. Speaking at the event was US Senator Johnny Isakson, Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) Director Jud Turner, and US Army Corps of Engineers District Commander Colonel Jon Chytka who all provided insight and details on the master water manual update of the Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa (ACT) River Basin and the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (ACF) River Basin.

From left to right: GAWP Executive Director Jack Dozier, Regional Business Coalition Executive Director Terry Lawler, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Colonel Jon Chytka, GAWP Deputy Executive Director Pam Burnett, GA EPD Director Jud Turner, and Council President & CEO Michael Paris

Colonel Chytka , who is in charge of the Mobile District Water Management Basins, began by demonstrating the importance of the water manuals equating it to a scale in which fish, wildlife, flood control, hydropower, navigation, recreation, water supply, and water quality all must be considered and balanced in an appropriate and integrated manner. This is accomplished by regulating the flow of water at every federal reservoir managed by the Corps. As a result, the stakes are high for everyone within the basins, however perhaps higher for the Metro Region as it directly impacts our future water supply.

First highlighting the ACT Basin, Colonel Chytka dicussed how the Corps does not have as much control as many believe. This is evident in only 6 out of 18 dams in the ACT Basin being owned and operated by the Corps. Despite this, the Corps’ manual update impacts the entire flow of water in the basin and is particularly critical to the Metro Region as it regulates the flow of Lake Allatoona. The ACT Basin’s Water Manual is expected to be completed in October to recieve final approval in December (see schedule below).

Colonel Chytka stressed throughout his speech that the Corps is consistent in its decisions as a result of being responsible for following the law, largely referring to the ruling of the 11th Circuit of the Court of Appeals. This judicial process is important considering the ACF Basin’s impact on the region which was further evident in Colonel Chytka presentation. While Lake Lanier represents 64% of the entire basin’s water storage, it is only 6% of the basin’s drainage area, demonstrating the slow recharge time of Lanier.

Unique to this basin are the significantly larger stakes Georgia has in the manual update than the other two states in the ACF Basin, Alabama and Florida. Georgia represents 74% of the basin compared to just 14.5% and 11.5% for the other two states, respectively. This, Jud Turner said, is why negotiations have been more stagnant as Georgia has a disproportionate risk which makes an agreement between the three states more difficult. However, with the event’s high turnout, it was evident the region’s stakeholders and leaders are ready to help finish the ACF Manual Update.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Colonel Jon Chytka

Senator Johnny Isakson compared the effectiveness of the current manual updates to that of using a 1950s car manual for a brand new Ford F150. In his message, he was clear that with this manual update he does not want anyone in the south to suffer, but rather be empowered. He also, related the importance of the water manual updates to the Savannah Harbor Deepening Project which took an important step forward with the passage of the Water Resources Development Act that passed the House and Senate this week.

Georgia EPD Director Jud Turner remarked that while there was no finish line in our quest for water resources, progress is being made after 20 long years. He also made it clear that the ACF Basin is more than just “Atlanta taking South Georgia’s water” and that it’s a state resources management issue that involves many stakeholders.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers still has work to do in updating the ACF Basin Manual and is scheduled to host public meetings in August of 2015 continuing through September (see schedule above). For more information, click HERE. To view the powerpoint Colonel Chytka’s presented, click HERE.