Alabama Water Policy Plan to be Discussed Friday at Gadsden State

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A kayaker on the Chattahoochie River in Atlanta: Glynn Wilson

By Glynn Wilson

News about the water wars between Georgia and Alabama has been slow in 2013, mainly due to rainfall levels that made the past year one of the wettest on record, at least over the last couple of decades. But climate change due to global warming means drought conditions will come back around again in the future.

Due to the fact that Alabama is one of the few states in the country and the southeast region not to have a water policy plan on the books, it is at a disadvantage in legal negotiations when disputes over water use erupt with other states.

The more organized state of Georgia, with its giant megalopolis in and around Atlanta, knows how to fight for its political rights to the water of the Chattahoochie River. Florida is also more bureaucratically organized, politically savvy and legally up to date.

This has some concerned scientists, policy makers and conservation groups in Alabama working to try to push the state to get organized and bring its water policies up to date so it can compete in court with its sister states.

To that end, there will be a water policy symposium Friday Nov. 15 at Gadsden State Community College beginning at 8:30 a.m. where members of the public can find out about the planning process and take part in the discussion over what kind of water policy the state should adopt.

Governor Robert Bentley got onboard with this idea last year, and set a deadline of Dec. 1 for state agencies to come up with a draft report for the Legislature to consider in the 2014 session, which begins on Tuesday, January 14. Bentley established the Alabama Water Agencies Working Group to submit recommendations for water planning in the state. Members of that group will be present at the symposium to hear the public’s concerns and provide input on the process.

Alabama Water Watch, a citizen volunteer, water quality monitoring program covering all of the major river basins in Alabama, is one of the groups involved in trying to influence the policy. Dr. Bill Deutsch will be speaking on the roles of government, corporate and civil interest in water access for that group in Room 210 of the Joe Ford Center in Gadsden on Thursday at 6:30 p.m.. The symposium will take place from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday at the Bevill Center.

Paid staff from the non-profit group the Alabama Rivers Alliance have traveled across the state speaking about the need for a comprehensive state water policy where members of the public have some input so that the policy that is implemented is not totally industry dominated by the usual suspects who control just about every aspect of Alabama politics already, mainly Southern Company’s Alabama Power.

“Alabama’s water resources are facing increasing stresses within the state from increased use and frequent droughts. On top of that, Alabama continues its legal battle with our neighbors over these shared waters,” said Mitch Reid of the Alabama Rivers Alliance. “It is crucial that the citizens of Alabama participate in the process. This water symposium is an open opportunity for all stakeholders to hear from decision makers at the state and federal level that have responsibility over our water resources, as well as to sit down with each other to discuss what they would like to see in the state’s water plan.”

Admission is free and the public is invited. Lunch will be served for those who register online in advance.

The event is also sponsored by the Coosa Valley Sierra Club and the Alabama Rivers Alliance, which constructed a Web page devoted to the water agenda.

After the symposium, there will be a fund raiser and party for the Alabama Rivers Alliance from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. at Back Forty Beer Company. Heavy hors d’oeuvres will be served and musicians Jess Goggans of Fort Payne and One Eyed Mary from Pell City are scheduled to perform. Admission is $15.

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Lake Chinnabee in Autumn, 2013: By Glynn Wilson

© 2013 – 2016, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.

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