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State forming drought response group
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ATLANTA — In a joint effort, four state agencies with expertise in disaster planning have joined forces to develop policies and strategies to cope with Georgia’s ongoing drought.

Created by Gov. Sonny Perdue, the Drought Response Unified Command group comprises:

• Director Carol Couch, Environmental Protection Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources: EPD protects Georgia's air, land and water resources through the authority of state and federal environmental statutes. These laws regulate public and private facilities in the areas of air quality, water quality, hazardous waste, water supply, solid waste, surface mining, underground storage tanks and others. EPD issues and enforces all state permits in these areas and has full delegation for federal environmental permits except Section 404 (wetland) permits. Dr. Couch chairs the DRUC group.

• Director Charley English, Georgia Emergency Management Agency and Homeland Security: GEMA provides a comprehensive and aggressive all-hazards approach to mitigation, preparedness, response, recovery and special events. During a crisis, GEMA coordinates the allocation of state personnel, equipment and services in order to protect life and property and to prevent and reduce the negative impact of natural and man-made disasters in Georgia.

• Executive Director Chris Clark, the Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority: GEFA administers a wide variety of programs that provide financial assistance and other support services to improve Georgia’s environment and promote economic development. GEFA’s program focus areas are water, wastewater, solid waste, recycling, land conservation, energy planning and efficiency, alternative fuels and state fuel storage tanks.

• Dr. Stuart T. Brown, Director, Division of Public Health of the Georgia Department of Human Resources: DPH is the lead agency entrusted by the people of the state of Georgia with the ultimate responsibility for the health of communities and the entire population. DPH provides guidance to hospitals, health departments and health care facilities, provides disease surveillance and monitoring services and consults and supports supplemental laboratory testing of water and well samples.

The DRUC group coordinates a common set of incident objectives and strategies, shares information, maximizes the use of available resources and enhances the efficiency of the drought-response organizations. One strategy includes establishing a Joint Information Center to coordinate and distribute accurate and timely information on issues pertaining to the drought.

In addition, a Drought Response Working Group has been formed to formulate policies based on the recommendations of the DRUC group. The working group includes personnel from EPD; GEMA; GEFA; Georgia Division of Public Health; Georgia Department of Agriculture; Georgia Department of Human Resources; Georgia Public Service Commission; Georgia Department of Transportation; Georgia Department of Public Safety; Department of Community Affairs and Georgia Forestry Commission. Other state boards, departments, agencies, councils, associations, institutions or authorities will be added as necessary.

Measures the working group will discuss include investigating new and underused water resources, methods to prolong our current water supply, and initiating an intensive public education campaign to raise awareness for the importance of conservation.