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GFB Urges Removal Of Section From Water Resources Bill

 

By: GFB News
4/11/2013 8:59:39 AM

 

Maintaining that a portion of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) would hold devastating consequences for agriculture and defeat the purpose of building reservoirs, Georgia Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall wrote to Sens. Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson urging their efforts to have that section of the bill removed.

The WRDA (S.601) was introduced on March 18 by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works. The committee passed it on March 20.

The WRDA establishes policies and priorities for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to authorize federal water projects. The bill has generally been reauthorized every two years, though the last two WRDA bills were enacted in 2000 and 2007, creating a backlog of projects awaiting approval.

The overall bill would also make changes to the environmental review process, impose new deadlines on the Corps of Engineers to reduce project backlog, establish new financing mechanisms and address a surplus in the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, among other things.

Duvall said GFB had serious concerns about Section 2015. Duvall pointed out in the letter that Section 2015 of the bill would in effect reinstate the injunction placed on access to water from Lake Lanier by Judge Paul Magnuson in his 2009 ruling, which was later overturned.

Section 2015 calls for congressional approval for any water release amount of five percent or more of the water held in Corps of Engineers reservoirs. In the case of Lake Lanier, this would limit withdrawals to approximately 50 million gallons per day. Current withdrawals from Lake Lanier are about 115 million gallons per day.

The five percent cap would result in reduced flows downstream. GFB maintains that this would prompt calls to limit the use of irrigation in one of the most heavily irrigated portions of the state. The Georgia Environmental Protection Division has already stopped accepting applications for new water withdrawal permits for irrigation in parts of the Flint River Basin.

"From an agricultural perspective, we believe the effect of Section 2015 would be to create additional pressure to restrict agricultural irrigation south of Atlanta," Duvall wrote. "As you are well aware, this action would detrimentally impact the largest field crop area of our state. As agriculture suffers, so does rural Georgia."

In addition to its devastating effects on agriculture, municipalities would be forced to build reservoirs that would not be needed without the Section 2015 requirements.

"The whole point of reservoirs is to store and conserve water for future use," Duvall wrote. "To unreasonably restrict the use of that water defeats the purpose of building reservoirs."

 

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