Several months ago, Laura Hartt, Water Policy Director for the Upper Chattahoochee River Keeper, contacted Dan MacIntyre and Haynes Johnson to see if the Georgia Canoeing Association (GCA) might be interested in joining the Tri-State Conservation Coalition (TSCC). Following discussion at our regularly scheduled Executive Board Meeting, the Board voted unanimously to join the Coalition.

You may well ask, what is the TSCC? First of all, everyone living in Georgia, Alabama, and Florida should have heard about the water wars among these three states; hence the Tri-State part of the name. Conservation can have intrusive connotations. In this case, however, conservation refers to balanced management of water resources in a way that is well thought out in terms of ecology, economy, aesthetics, and recreation. Coalition is a group of non-government organizations with common goals. More information about TSCC is available on the internet.

The following is taken entirely from the TSCC mission statement, “The TSCC is a regional network of nongovernmental conservation organizations in Georgia, Alabama, and Florida with the mission to protect water quality, biodiversity, and recreation in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (ACF) and Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa (ACT) River Basins. The TSCC advocates for the protection of water quality, biodiversity and recreation throughout the Basins through a variety of watershed protections including adequate instream flow regimes, monitoring programs, water conservation and adaptive management. The TSCC promotes sustainable and equitable management of these Basins, which provide drinking water for millions of people, habitat for a diverse community of aquatic organisms, and outstanding recreational opportunities.” That’s a pretty ambitious mission, but certainly one the Club can support. With all of the political flapdoodle that has gone on through the years over these Basins, it will require the concerted effort of a great many diverse groups to ensure that all interests in the Basins will receive equitable use of the water resources.

The TSCC supports five important principles to help maintain water resources in the tri-state area. These principles include: 1) maintenance of ecologically healthy instream flows, 2) adequate safeguards against any adverse impacts of inter-basin transfers (IBTs), 3) adaptive management based on sound science and adequate monitoring and reporting, 4) maximize water conservation and efficiency first as the most economical and efficient means of meeting future water demand, and 5) transparent and accessible decision making to facilitate and diversify public participation.

That last principle is already suffering from some political and legal maneuvering. Currently, the negotiations among the three states are being held in secret sessions; no information is to be leaked to the public. This condition was requested by the states and approved by the federal court so there is not much that can be done about those conditions now. What can be done is to make sure that well reasoned public comments constantly flow to the decision makers to limit the possibility that at the end of the decision making process some fair, and equitable solution has been overlooked.

Recently, the TSCC hosted a conference in Montgomery, Alabama which was attended by representatives of at least 33 groups including the GCA River Protection Chair. During the conference, presentations were given to update the attendees on the various water resource driven aspects and activities which specifically apply to the ACF and ACT River Basins. It was an eye-opener to see how much has been done and how much more needs to be done to develop sound recommendations which will allow sustainable growth without sacrificing environmental quality.

In addition to the updates, there were break out sessions to refine the groups thoughts on such topics as instream flows, reservoirs, water conservation, coalition building and IBTs. The first two tasks for the Coalition to come out of the breakout sessions are deciding the basic governance of the group and sending a letter to the governors of the three states. Currently the TSCC is run by a steering committee made up of representatives from the Alabama Rivers Alliance, Southern Environmental Law Center, American Rivers, Lake Watch of Lake Martin and Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper. The letter to the three governors will request that they allow a representative from the coalition to sit in on the secret negotiations and that they consider incorporating the TSCC’s five principles into any settlement that they reach. These are challenging tasks but it does not hurt to ask and get on the record.

 

Members of the club should stay up to date and informed about the more important aspects of this challenge of managing water resources in our area so they can discuss the issues with our less informed friends. As canoe and kayak paddlers, we see first hand the effects of good and bad water management. From this personal experience we can develop some strong opinions, but then you know what they say about opinions in general. Informed opinions are much better because they are based in fact and more difficult to refute. If you have questions or ideas specific to any of the water resource issues in these basins, please contact the GCA River Protection Chair through the list serve. If there is enough interest in having presentations and discussions on some of the topics which apply to the ACF or the ACT, we should be able to organize an evening session by bringing in outside talent to promote that exchange. Remember, the water resources are generally public resources, and we are the public. Protect your resources.

 

by Haynes Johnson, River Protection Chair
From The Eddy Line, March/April 2010