Just a few years ago, I pointed to some friends of mine in county government back in Hinesville that one of my former stomping grounds in metro Atlanta passed a new SPLOST.
Their five-year penny sales tax was expected to generate in excess of $650 million. I remarked that given the recently released digest that might have been enough to buy nearly the whole county.
Now, metro Atlanta finds itself plunged into a complete outdoor watering ban in order to conserve its dwindling water resources, could a larger suburban or urban county take its massive SPLOST bankroll and take either a large chunk, or even an entire, smaller, poorer more rural county for the sake of its water rights.
Granted, that’s really running away with an idea and it’s beyond far-fetched and absurd. But something that drastic could be offing if something doesn’t happen to alleviate north Georgia’s water crunch. With much of Effingham County still in the EPD’s red zone, there is empathy, if not sympathy, for north Georgia’s plight. But a better tone might be — hands off.
Because of the red zone — arbitrarily drawn on a line south of Highway 119 — getting more water for developments in south Effingham is a difficult process. Getting more water, even for the existing residents and businesses, requires some deal-making and partnerships that also didn’t exist before.
The water issues have forced cooperation and creative solutions. For Effingham’s sake, that is one benefit — if maybe the only benefit.
Metro Atlanta, which now extends east past Gainesville, north past Canton, west to Carrollton and south past Henry County, a wide and ever-growing circle, could turn its eyes east toward Augusta’s reservoirs. Or south.
Because of the red zone and the cap placed on south and east Effingham and Chatham, there isn’t much water to be pulled from that part of the Coastal Empire. But somehow Liberty and Bryan were pulled out of the red zone and there’s still the more than 40 million gallons of water to go with the permit for the now-shuttered Durango paper mill in Camden County.
The statewide water management plan is being drafted and a final version is expected to be done by late December and ready to submit to the General Assembly. State lawmakers must vote either up or down on the plan. Should they reject it, they have to create their own — quickly — or the original plan goes into effect.
A series of public meetings will be held around the state and two will be close to Effingham — Oct. 15 at Georgia Southern University’s Neesmith Lane Building and Oct. 17 at the Armstrong Atlantic State University Armstrong Center Auditorium, at 6 p.m. for each meeting. You can review the draft and make comments at http://www.georgiawaterplan.org/Pages/GWC_Index.aspx.