People or Mussels & Sturgeon?

Georgia’s Congressional Delegation want’s to suspend the Endangered Species Act during the drought:

The bill would apply nationally, but Georgia lawmakers particularly hoped to stop the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ practice of releasing water from Georgia lakes to protect threatened mussels and sturgeon downstream in Florida.

The bill will probably face strong resistance if it advances. But in a rare show of bipartisan unity, Georgia’s lawmakers rallied around it as a “common sense” solution to the state’s persistent drought.

Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Moultrie said Georgia’s water is being restricted to “protect a handful of mussels and sturgeon,” leading people to wonder whether Congress cares more about animals than human beings.

“This is a crisis,” added Rep. John Lewis, an Atlanta Democrat.

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43 comments

  1. SpaceyG says:

    I love my mussels with a Coca-Cola sauce to simmer in. Which makes me wonder if there’s such a water crisis, then when are they going to curtail manufacturing THAT product, since of course the landscapers can’t make THEIR products (nice yards) right now.

    Then again, over in my ‘hood, all those nice Buckhead “rolling lawns like breasts” look just marvelous. As always.

    (First person who can answer me where that quote comes from wins lunch with me. Or Bull Moose. Your pick.)

  2. YourFutureLeader says:

    I dont know about the quote but I do think that this Amendment is being done in haste. The ESA does provide flexibility for a committee or board to be formed and a ruling of jeopardy issued to suspend the action that is taking place under the ESA. A permanent amendment may due more long term harm then good. Im somewhat shocked this came about so quickly withour waiting for Dr. Couch’s report for the Governor on our water conservation needs.

  3. SpaceyG says:

    It’s all gonna be “Shock Conservation” soon. Sad thing is, industries such as landscaping, agriculture, etc. are experiencing the “shock” here in GA already due to outdoor water bans. But others that utilize indoor water, builders, Coke, etc., just carry on as normal. And certain “key” industries will get their free pass whatever the conditions I’m sure, depending on their political contribution history no doubt.

  4. heroV says:

    I just hope that if this amendment passes, everyone won’t say “whew, now there’s plenty of water” and then proceed to carry on as if there is no drought. From what I have been able to gather (which admittedly isn’t THAT much), we apparently screwed up in our stewardship of our water resources and we should be better prepared for the next drought rather than behaving as if there is an endless supply.

  5. YourFutureLeader says:

    heroV thats exactly what has happened. Georgia has essentially been asleep at the wheel as we have known for a long time that we would be giving this much water to Florida and we did nothing to have safeguards in place to make sure that if a drought occurs. This is mostly our fault.

  6. If state and local leaders started treating water conservation seriously even last year, the current situation would not be so dire.

    This is people vs. mussels. It’s tragically bad leadership vs. the rest of us.

  7. The Comma Guy says:

    Isn’t part of the problem that the Corps are under an order from an Alabama Federal Judge to keep the water pumping though there are no water restrictions in place in Alabama and the original lawsuit was against the Corps and not Georgia over Georgia’s use of the ‘Hooch?

  8. jsm says:

    I heard on the radio this morning that the Corps is releasing more water from Lanier now than would flow down the Hooch naturally without the formation of Lake Lanier. I don’t know how this could be true and the lake maintain a consistent water level even during normal years, but I thought it was an interesting tidbit that I’m trying to verify. The AJC did report on Sept 21, “The Corps has been releasing more than 10 times the amount of water from Lanier it receives from streams flowing in.”

    A wsbtv.com story on Oct 12 stated:
    “Water from Georgia lakes and rivers provide drinking water to communities in Alabama and Florida, but those states have not enacted any water restrictions.”

    Although we’re not doing a perfect job here conserving water, we need to put pressure on communities downstream to help with the effort. We also need to put more focus on human survival more than these mussel species which, by the way, people don’t eat.

  9. David says:

    Dang right suspend the ESA! It’s a crock to begin with and to hell with the Alabama judge ot whoever it is that demands that we send water to a G*d damned mussel!! I hope Sonny has the stones to take the water!

  10. ChuckEaton says:

    Over the course of the drought I’ve read and heard some sympathetic comments regarding the mussels and sturgeon. Comments regarding their role in the larger ecosystem, the possibility they could contatin the cure for cancer, etc…

    While the mussels might be greatly underappreciated, I think we are forgetting that Buford dam is letting out 10 times the water it takes in so what would the mussels be doing without the manmade dam?

    You could easily make the argument that we are upsetting nature’s delicate balance by using a manmade dam to increase the natural flow of water to the mussels. Perhaps mother nature has determined that the mussels have had a great million plus year run and is trying to get rid of the mussels.

  11. CHelf says:

    I think the mussels and sturgeon have become the focus because of the whole environmental craze. The issue is more likely to get more press and kneejerk reaction if it deals with the Al Gore-esque issues. There are still concerns over river traffic downstream, power generation, drinking supplies, etc. We can say “who cares about the mussels” but there are quite a few other issues that also have to be addressed in this.

    The fact remains that development has overrun infrastructure in North Georgia. This drought will not just disappear overnight. Development, thus water demand, continues. The full pool size of Lanier stays the same. So either each county needs to look at creation of reservoirs and conservation methods or we will keep going through this every drought cycle. We can blame the sturgeon and mussels but when all is said and done it is POOR planning on the part of cities and counties and even states regarding this matter.

  12. Randy Lewis says:

    The drought is a problem…but the biggest problem is capture and storage. We don’t paid the water planners to manage water in good times — a monkey can do that. What we need are people that know how to manage water in the middle of a drought. And, I’s starting to think they all need to be fired. The entire problem is currently being balanced on the backs of the outdoor water industry while everyone else get a pass. I also feel confident that the water release out of Lanier is political payback/revenge for Georgia’s refusal to bend to the Corps will on the lawsuit. It time for Sonny to give them bitch slap.

  13. ChuckEaton says:

    While I agree there are issues other then the mussels and sturgeon affecting the flow of water, I believe it’s the Endagered Species Act that has caused the Judiciary to become involved.

    I believe it’s the most glaring problem and is why the Georgia delegation is trying to change the Act. Until the law is changed, there is not a whole lot the State, our Congressional Delegation, the Corps, or the President can do with a Judge standing in the way.

  14. griftdrift says:

    I agree with you Randy but what’s Sonny going to do? Call out the militia to take over Lanier? We tried that once before you know. We all know how that turned out.

    At least most everyone agrees here the primary problem is in planning. The planners should be held accountable.

  15. Doug Deal says:

    Grift,

    You are forgetting that half the people who won the war in question (i.e. those in the northeast) probably don’t want Georgia in the Union. So, everything might go by all unnoticed like.

    One wonders how many issue like this would have gone away if environMENTALists did make a boogyman out of nuclear energy. Coastal cities could then have a great deal of their water supplied by off peak desalination, leaving the interior the rivers.

  16. YourFutureLeader says:

    ChuckEaton you are incorrect in saying that the ESA keeps the the State, our Congressional Delegation, the Corps, or the President can do. In fact the ESA has a provision written into it for this situation in subsection 3(A) of section 7, which states;
    “Promptly after conclusion of consultation under the paragraph (2) or (3) of subsection (a), the Secretary shall provide the Federal Agency and the applicant, if any, a written statement setting forth the Secretary’s opinion, and a summary of information on which the opinion is based, detailing how the agency affects the species or its critical habitat. IF JEOPARDY OR ADVERSE MODIFICATION IS FOUND, THE SECRETARY SHALL SUGGEST THOSE REASONABLE AND PRUDENT ALTERNATIVES WHICH HE BELIEVES WOULD NOT VIOLATE SUBSECTION A(2)…”

    Sorry for the caps but I dont know how to bold it so I put it in all caps. Anyways to put the above in layman terms it means that if a situation arises where something needs to be done that would put the species in jeopardy then reasonable alternatives (like lessening the water supply flow from GA to FLA) will be proposed and handled.

    Sen. Isakson bill is extremely dangerous and Id argue its unconstitutional. It gives authority to the Secretary of the Army Corps of Engineers who dont do anything right or the Governor of a state to determine if the ESA can be ignored. In this case if Sonny steps in turns off the water and violates the ESA he is affect intra-state commerce. Which is something that is overseen by Congress and not within the power of the governor.

    Suffice it to say that Sonny, Cagle, Richardson, and the GA Delegation need to appeal to the Sec of the Interior to enact Section 7 of the ESA, rule jeopardy and provide a reasonable and prudent alternative.

  17. CobbGOPer says:

    Sure there was bad planning, and certainly people should be held accountable for that.

    However, if we were not being forced by the Imperial Federal Government under the auspices of the Endangered Species Act to release 10 (TEN!) times more water per day that we usually would, we would not find ourselves in the dilemma we are in.

    This is not to say that there would not be a water shortage, we are in a drought, after all. But we would not be to the point of dicussing 2-minute showers and other ridiculous restrictions.

    As well, since none of the downriver states are enacting any restrictions (since the 10x water release is giving them PLENTY of water), we here at the headwaters (relatively speaking) are the ones to suffer most.

  18. griftdrift says:

    Oh yes. It’s all the poor mussels fault. Let me post a hypothetical. Let’s pretend the mussels didn’t exist and the EPT was not a factor. Do you still think we would win a riparian case involving Alabama and Florida?

  19. YourFutureLeader says:

    grift you are not taking into account that in 2003 Sonny Perdue, Jeb Bush, and Bob Riley all signed a memorandum on water negotiations that doesnt even expire until 2040 and in that memorandum they hammered out an allocation formula for the ACF River Basin. This isnt just about Mussels and the ESA but about a tri-state water war that has been going on for many many years. The army corps of engineers when issuing their decision yesterday to not stop the flow is hiding behind the ESA.

  20. jsm says:

    Cobb, stating we are at the headwaters is not a “relative” assumption. The Chattahoochee starts as a spring in White County.

  21. griftdrift says:

    I’m absolutely taking that into account. That’s why I said it was a hypothetical.

    But you make my point. The bottom line is not mussels in the Appalchicola or even about those poor ass oyster people who might have to go on the government assistance because their industry goes tango uniform.

    The bottom line is we at the headwaters have not been good stewards of the resource. Our actions or inactions adversely affect our neighbors downstream and mussels or not that will cause repercussions.

    If you don’t factor in this huge variable then please spare my wailing and gnashing of teeth about crazy people picking blobs of goo over human beings.

  22. atlantaman says:

    I’d really like to know who they defined liberal in that “poll” and how the poll was conducted. I wonder if some of the folks questioned even understand the term liberal. I know the Dems have a few elistest liberals, but I’m not sure if the Dems want to go down the road of who has the most well-read voters.

    If it were true then I’m sure the Dems would have no problem with a simple 3 question test to receive a ballot: 1. Spell your State 2. Name one of the three branches of government 3. Name the Vice-President.

    Here is a book those coldhearted liberal haven’t been reading: http:

    htto://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,302751,00.html

    I could have told you that a book written by a liberal on “giving” targeted to liberals would be a dud.

    Anyone see that study by the Syracuse University professor showing Conservatives are far more compassionate and charitable than Liberals. The book backs it up with some compelling data. It’s called “Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth about Compassionate Conservatism .” The author has voted in Democrat and Republican primaries.

  23. CHelf says:

    Let’s see. Some choose to blame wildlife for this water crisis. But let’s look at a larger picture. Let’s look at a pattern and where the finger points for this pattern. Overcrowded schools. Bumper to bumper traffic. Water restrictions. In several aspects of the daily lives of those in North Georgia we see large amounts of growth and poor planning to stay one step ahead of that growth. It seems our leadership at local and state levels has done a poor job of staying ahead of the acts of development they approve. Sure. More development means more jobs, more tax revenue, etc. But someone forgot to drag infrastructure along with this pace.

    Perhaps local and state leaders need to come up with a formula for development. Perhaps this formula should be something to the effect that infrastructure improvements are at a 10 to 20% greater rate than development approvals? If something like this is in place there would obviously be a need for bumping it higher as well.

    So while a few choose to look at some small picture and blame some wildlife in Florida, why don’t we look at the larger picture and see an abysmal record on the part of local and state leaders for neglecting improvements with infrastructure while bringing exceeding amounts of development in.

    Let’s face it. Sonny could send the National Guard in to seize the dam. But that will only prolong the inevitable. The real problem does not go away with seizing the dam and/or controlling the flow just a tad bit more. Drought cycles are not going away. As more people move into the metro area demand will increase. It is already increasing at a faster pace than obviously infrastructure is. So as drought cycles continue and demand increases, what will the response be? Perhaps those in power would be better serving their constituents by making some quick moves to address this as well? Or are they just going to keep blaming the Al Gores, sturgeon, mussels, and those downstream for a problem that has more cause here in the metro areas than down there?

  24. SpaceyG says:

    Dufus Sonny commanding the Guard and seizing Buford Dam. Now that I would give up manicures for a week to get on tape. Heck, I’d give up even highlights for a month if Clark Howard was in the regiment. Gawd can you get any more geeked out in this state? Jeez…

  25. jsm says:

    CHelf, what infrastructure improvements would you recommend to ease the effects of this drought? The only one I could think of would be more reservoirs.

    I don’t see anyone blaming wildlife, but rather those who require protection of that wildlife beyond nature’s protection of it.

  26. jsm says:

    Correction to my statement from yesterday:

    The Chattahoochee actually starts in Union County, just north of the White County line.

  27. GodHatesTrash says:

    Ah yes, the vision of Guvnuh George “Sonny” Perdoofus astride a horse leading the mighty CSA into battle against Buford Dam!

    Damn!

    Better get you a big effing horse for that moon-faced lardass!

  28. CHelf says:

    JSM,

    Read my post from before the one you reference. I mentioned more reservoirs as a need. Again, this issue is a perfect indicator of an all out failure on the part of local and state government on planning to keep up with development. Nothing wrong with development but there is something wrong with our leaders pushing it through and not creating the infrastructure to be at parity if not ahead of development.

    Look at the water crisis in the counties surrounding and including Athens-Clarke. Can the sturgeon and mussel needs in FL be blamed for that? When all is said and done, blaming the ESA and trying to go after it is short-sighted. Let’s look at the bigger picture and actually address the real issue. I understand the need for something fringe to stir up the masses but let’s be a little honest in trying to fix the problem.

  29. Icarus says:

    More reservoirs are needed, but guess who’s standing in the way of that? The Army Corps.

    About 20 years ago, Fayette County assessed it’s water needs and determined it needed two more reservoirs to support it’s population as it reached “buildout”. It permitted two additional reservoirs with the Army Corps. It built one, Lake Horton, and delayed the other, Lake McIntosh, until growth made it necessary. About 5 years ago, Fayette decided to begin the Lake McIntosh project. The Corps said no. They made the county start the permit process from the beginning, allowing none of the work done for the first permit. That process took 5 years, and the permit was just issued.

    I am also told that the Corps will not allow any additional reservoirs on the Flint or Chattahoochee basin until the “tri state” issues are solved. I don’t know how true this is, but there is a lot of blame to go around here.

  30. CHelf says:

    I hear that AL’s full Congressional delegation is protesting to the Corps of Engineers that Georgia is being allowed to pull too much water out of Lake Allatoona. So Georgia is taking too much from one lake and not getting enough from another lake. And AL does have water restrictions downstream as well.

  31. IndyInjun says:

    Does anyone else see the irony in Sonny’s program to build more boat ramps and promote fishing when he should have spent more time making sure there was going to be water at the bottom of the ramps for the fish to swim in?

  32. CHelf says:

    Which one? AL delegation or the AL restrictions? I’ll be happy to post links to both. Here’s Dothan, AL news. Note the date on this. But according to some, AL has no restrictions. Google AL and water restrictions and you’ll see over half of the people of the state are under restrictions as well.

    http://www.wsfa.com/Global/story.asp?S=6699691

  33. jsm says:

    Chelf, I guess what I’m getting at is that saying “conservation methods” sounds good but is hollow. What types of conservation methods can governments employ? Other than building and plumbing codes, they have little control over the numbers of plumbing fixtures inside a facility and the amount of water used in those fixtures. Also, I’m aware of no local governments that build gray water (clear waste water for reuse) systems. Those are typically used within individual developments or building sites and only when an owner desires to spend the extra money up front for the system (i.e. VERY rarely).

    We have made great strides nationally since 1970 in water usage requirements for fixtures. Toilets now use 1.6 gallons of water or less–down from 5.5 to 8 gallons prior to 1970. Most hand-washing faucets now have 0.5 gallon/minute (gpm) aerators constricting the former 2 to 3 gpm full flow.

    However, once a building is finished, an occupant can change any of his faucets, shower heads, etc., to higher flow units with no regulation.

    Since individual water consumption on average has been drastically reduced over the last 37 years, I think the water conservation method talk is the straw man here. The Fed and plumbing code councils are pressuring the manufacturers of toilets, faucets, shower heads, etc., to decrease flow capacities of their products. Additionally, population growth is inevitable.

    The issue here is water release volumes through the Buford Dam and the lack of rain. Federal guidelines and their application by the Corps of Engineers are proving to be irrational and detrimental to the human population.

    By the way, someone told me this evening that when the level of Lake Lanier falls below the bottom lip height of the spill way chutes, 40% of Lake Lanier will remain. At that point, no one down stream gets any water, nor do the mussels and sturgeon. It would seem that rationing of water flows would be the sensible thing, even in the eyes of the federal government, Alabama, Florida, and ESA supporters.

  34. CHelf says:

    You missed my point. Increasing reservoirs. Is Lake Lanier/Buford Dam issues the problem with Athens and surrounding areas water woes? What about the water issues around Allatoona and downstream from there? This is FAR more than a Buford Dam issue. This is FAR more than a mussel and sturgeon issue. All of North Georgia is suffering and many of these counties are outside the range of the Buford Dam matter. Does slowing the flow solve those issues? Does it solve Allatoona issues and those that pour into Alabama? This has turned into some “let’s beat on the environmentalists” issue with the rallying cry being the mussels and sturgeon. But the issue is far greater than that. Those harping on Buford Dam are only hitting PART of the problem AND a short term fix. Would it kill those in power to actually address the whole picture? God knows those in power are the ones with a major hand in this problem to begin with.

    As for pricing and regulation, what would be the harm in charging on a tier system? If residentially zoned homes use more than a certain amount of gallons, charge a higher rate per gallon. Make people pay higher costs for greater demand. Why can’t market effects pour over into water usage as well? Less supply and greater demand usually results in what?

  35. GodHatesTrash says:

    Lake Lanier has some of the finest filthy nasty red clay beaches in the world – deal with it, folks.

  36. cohallis says:

    What sells more newspapers? A headline that says “endangered species more important than humans” or one that says “18 million Floridians use more water than 9 million Georgians”? As usual, politicians are grandstanding and applying band-aids to a long term problem that is about human population growth and sane resource management.

  37. Doug Deal says:

    cohallis,

    river does not flow into the populated regions of south central and south Georgia, where most of the population lives. The Chattahoochie joins the Flint to form the Apalachicola which dumps into the Gulf.

    The Chattahoocjie goes right through the heaviest populations centers of Georgia, and remains in Georgia or on Georgia’s border its entire length. (It becomes the Apalachicola where it joins the Flint river (another river contained within Georgia).

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