Mar 19 2011
Georgia State Representatives Tom McCall (R-Elberton), Alan Powell (D-Hartwell) and Michael Harden (R-Toccoa), along with other Northeast Georgia State Representatives, announced on March 18 the filing of House Bill 1301, the River Basin Protection Act. This legislation requires a permit for interbasin water transfers.
“Interbasin transfers that are used to supplement systems that haven’t taken care of the water resources within their own basins are not in the best interest of any part of Georgia, especially the donor basin,” said Representative Tom McCall, sponsor of HB 1301 and chairman of the Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee. “This bill simply puts into place requirements more stringent than a simple ad in the paper and a public hearing. The most important aspect of HB 1301 is the requirement to consider the effects on the donor basin and its economy and ecology.”
HB 1301 requires any person or entity seeking an interbasin transfer of more than 100,000 gallons of water per day to request a permit from the director of the Department of Natural Resources’ Environmental Protection Division (EPD). In order to obtain a permit, water users must implement water conservation practices and demonstrate that there are no cost effective alternatives available other than an interbasin transfer. If these standards are met, interbasin transfer permits can only be issued for a term less than ten years and must be evaluated at the end of the fifth year. The EPD director must also indicate various terms and conditions in each permit to ensure the protection of both the donor and the receiving river basins.
HB 1301 also requires the EPD director to notify city and county governments, including public utilities in each county that is entirely or partially located within the donor and receiving river basins, which could be affected by a requested permit. The EPD director must also provide public notification in the newspaper of general circulation in each affected community.
“As Georgians work together to secure a sufficient and sustainable water supply, it is important that we carefully monitor our river basins,” said Representative Powell. “HB 1301 ensures the security of Georgia’s existing river basins and requires that any potential interbasin transfers are done in the most efficient manner possible. This legislation will also provide citizens with the knowledge they deserve concerning their local water supply.”
Currently, about 25 Georgia communities have interbasin transfers, and approximately 10 of those transfer more than a million gallons a day. Governor Perdue’s Water Contingency Task Force considers interbasin transfers a possible, yet expensive, alternative source for Atlanta’s water supply. However, under current state law, the Metro North Georgia Water Planning District, which includes Atlanta and its surrounding counties, is prohibited from importing water from outside its boundaries.
“This legislation will protect Georgia river basins from the harmful effects of interbasin transfers, such as irreversible alterations to natural water flow, threats to a stream’s ability to assimilate pollutants, and flooding in receiving basins,” said Representative Harden.
House Bill 1301 has been assigned to the House Committee on Natural Resources and Environment.