Legislation Would Weaken Protections for Flint River

Georgia SB 213, a bill under consideration by the General Assembly, would weaken protections for the Flint River that are currently required during periods of drought.

The bill seeks to amend the Flint River Drought Protection Act, which recognizes that a certain level of water is necessary to maintain a healthy ecosystem and to meet many human needs and allows the state to manage water use on the Flint River during periods of drought.  The bill is opposed by the Sierra Club, Rep. Regina Quick of Athens, and Georgia’s largest peanut farming company.  Critics argue that the legislation would threaten property rights and allow the state to pick winners and losers during droughts.

The bill would also limit the area of the Flint Watershed protected during droughts by excluding:

field drainage systems, wet weather ditches, or any other water body:

(A) In which the channel is located above the ground-water table year round;
(B) For which runoff from precipitation is the primary source of water flow; and
(C) For which ground water is not a source of water flow.

In addition, the Environmental Protection Division (EPD) would no longer be required to implement protections detailed in the current statute.  The proposed legislation, by changing the word “will” to “may,” leaves the decision of whether to impose protections during droughts to the EPD Director’s discretion.

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