Water Resources Development Act Passes First Test: What This Means for Georgia

It has been a rocky path in the quest to meet Georgia’s
demand for a sustainable water supply and transportation. From the devastating ruling from Senior U.S. District Judge Magnuson in 2009 to the victorious overturning of his ruling by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2011, the state has experienced many victories and setbacks. Georgia survived a nail biting fight in
the United States Senate with the passage of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA); the bill, if
passed in current form, will allow the state to maintain
its water supply from Lake Lanier while increasing economic development by allowing Georgia to begin
deepening the Savannah Port.
Georgia faced a devastating challenge when language requiring Congressional approval for the Army Corp of
Engineers to change storage plans within any federal reservoir by 5% or more was added as an amendment
was added to the WRDA. Alabama and Florida lawmakers supported this language, which would have limited
Georgia’s access to the ACF and the ACT basins using the power of Congressional approval. The Georgia Congressional Delegation wrote a letter expressing concern over this language, specifically mentioning the
“dangerous national precedent” these provisions may set with regard to Congressional oversight. Senator
Chambliss and Senator Isakson succeeded in averting efforts by Alabama and Florida to amend the rights
given to Georgia from the Federal Courts regarding access to Lake Lanier, and the bill won in the Senate in an
83-14 victory. Georgia Congressman Doug Collins (R) states, “Between the Port in Savannah, and the policies impacting our Corps of Engineers lakes, this bill matters to Georgia.” The House will draft a version of
the WRDA later this year, with the bill going to conference committee to most likely be voted on this fall.
The Water Resources Development Act is important to the state for several reasons, most importantly the
language allowing the deepening of the Savannah Harbor to begin. Congress has a set price in which project
costs must fall under in order to be authorized, but the price ceiling for projects of this nature was mandated
years ago and has not been adjusted for inflation. The WRDA increases accessibility and if passed with current language regarding the port, will allow for the Army Corps of Engineers to begin the harbor deepening.
The Savannah Harbor, currently 43 feet deep, will be dredged to 47 ft, which would be more conducive for
super sized container vessels, and will account for an estimated 352,000 jobs annually, $66.9 billion in revenue, $18.5 billion in income, and $2.5 billion in taxes. The deepening of the harbor has been regarded as a
crucial element to greater efficiency and economic growth for the state of Georgia by policymakers and
elected officials. The project was approved by the Federal Government last year, but has yet to receive adequate funding. The passage of the WRDA in the Senate brings Georgia one step closer to completing the project, which has been named a top priority by Republican Governor Nathan Deal and Democratic Mayor Kasim
The Council for Quality Growth has a long been a vocal supporter of sustainable means of transportation,
water and infrastructure and supports the Georgia Congressional Delegation in their pursuit to see this bill
passed in a form that protects our most valuable resource and boosts the state economy by funding the Savannah port.