As the clock runs out on this year’s General Assembly session, the House is yet to take action on S.B. 213, a water rights bill drenched in bad policies. The Rules Committee will consider it first, and I’ve already been in touch with my local rep, Mack Jackson, a Rule members, who took time yesterday to thank me for bringing the issues to his attention via email.
This bill, as passed by the Senate, included a Yes vote by my absentee freshman senator, David Lucas. He must not know, or care, that his district includes rivers which could be put at risk for reduced downstream flow, as well as stripping away water rights for his constituents.
This bill allows government to step in and make decisions impacting property owners and taxpayers without public hearings. It puts government and private business ahead of citizens. It threatens property owner’s access to water that flows through their land in rivers and streams, or under their land.
S.B. 213 is poisonous for our rivers, property owners, farmers, and sportmen.
“Augmentation” threatens Georgia’s riparian rights system – altering fundamental property rights and threatening longstanding Georgia water rights law.
The bill now includes:
- The augmentation provisions allow the EPD director to deny water users that are downstream of an undefined “augmentation” project the use of any of the “augmented” water flowing past their property, without prior opportunity to be heard.
- This provision allows the State to control (or allow a private party to control) a portion of stream flow and prohibit the reasonable use of it, which is akin to prior appropriation of water – a short step from western-type water regulation. State ownership of water is different from the state’s current regulation by permit.
- Property owners in Georgia have a “bundle” of rights that make up their property rights. An essential property right in that bundle is the right to reasonable use of water on or under your property. Allowing the appropriation and state control of water, and not allowing downstream property owners the right to reasonable use of it, radically diminishes that property right.
- An augmentation project to benefit endangered species is already operating on a tributary to the Flint River. This language is not needed to do this augmentation project or protect endangered species.
- The flow augmentation language will allow a hugely expensive, taxpayer-funded, multi-million dollar Aquifer Storage and Recovery/Southwest Georgia Regional Commission Stream Flow Augmentation project to continue to be funded in the lower Flint.
- The water added by this project will flow to Florida while Georgia farmers and other property owners will be denied reasonable use of it.
- The project could add to Metro Atlanta water supply but at an extremely high cost that is projected to fall on Metro utility ratepayers, who already pay the highest water bills in the state.
You need to call your Georgia House member TODAY, right now, before you get another cup of coffee, check Face Book, or think about what you want for lunch. Find your House member’s info here and tell them to oppose S.B. 213 if it includes this language when it reaches them for a vote.