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Will growth be stymied?
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On Nov. 4, Barack Obama was elected as the 44th president of the United States of America.  

On Nov. 20, Rep. Henry A. Waxman, D-Calif., was elected chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee of the U. S. House of Representatives.

What, if anything, do these two events have to do with Georgia’s future growth you might ask?  

Some will say nothing, others will say plenty.

Over the past decade, Georgia has been one of the fastest growing states in the nation.  In fact, from 2000 through 2006, Georgia’s population grew by 14.4 percent, helping to make it the ninth most populous state in the nation.

Obviously, we would not have been able to grow without the natural resources necessary to support such an increase. Water and sewer capacities are prerequisites for growth in any area.

For some years now, the state has been mired in a lawsuit with Alabama and Florida regarding water flows in the Chattahoochee River and how much water is to be taken out of Lake Lanier in northeast Georgia for the city of Atlanta’s drinking needs.

The tri-state water war took on national significance during the recently completed presidential campaign when then-candidate Barack Obama announced during a campaign stop in Florida that he would make “protecting Florida’s water resources” a priority in his administration. The comment was quickly interpreted by incumbent U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia and other high-ranking state officials as meaning Mr. Obama favored Florida’s water needs over that of Georgia and Alabama.

A final decision on this acrimonious suit should be made in a Florida court sometime next year. For the state of Georgia and its capital city of Atlanta, the ramifications are resounding — without the ability to control its future water supply as well as hold on to the water it already has, growth in the region will be stymied.

Meanwhile, Rep. Waxman’s ascent to the chairmanship of the Energy and Commerce Committee of the U. S. House of Representatives is hailed by many as an indication of the extreme environmental policies that can be expected to come out of Washington in the coming years.  

Rep. Waxman, who was viewed as a more liberal choice than the former chairman whom he ousted, is expected to work with the Obama administration and Democratically-controlled Congress to push for environmental policy reform.

While all Georgians are certainly concerned with protecting our precious natural resources, there is legitimate concern that environmental extremism could have a significant impact on future growth.

One such example is the Savannah harbor, home of the Georgia ports, viewed by many as the economic engine of the state.

For years now, the ports have been lobbying for the deepening of the Savannah River channel to accommodate the larger ships calling on U.S. ports. Without this deepening, future growth of this vital economic stimulus could spell disaster to growth not only in Coastal Georgia but to all parts of the state.  

Still another consideration affecting the ports in Savannah is the water quality standards set forth by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD). Currently, the EPD has set the total maximum daily load (TMDL) for dissolved oxygen (DO) for the Savannah Harbor at the same level as a mountain trout stream in north Georgia, which is generally recognized as an unattainable level.

Without new standards being proposed by EPD, the economic vitality and development of the entire Savannah River Basin will be seriously threatened.

While all Georgians care about our environment and understand the fragility of our precious natural resources, a balance must be reached between conservation and development, otherwise growth in our state could be stymied.