Disclaimer: There will be no references cited here, since, as I’m fond of saying, I’m writing a blog, not a term paper. So you will have to take my word for it that I’m telling the truth, or else you will have to look it up yourself. Disclaimer #2: I’m telling the truth, but some inaccuracies or fuzzy details may seep in unintentionally.
The subject of this blog is the war between Georgia, Alabama, and Florida over the water in what is known as the Chattahoochee/Flint/Appalachicola river system. This war has been going on for umpty-jillion years (in the South, this means “several” or sometimes, “a few”). I think in fact that it’s been about 12 years (see: fuzzy details). The gist of it is this: Georgia built a giant dam (Buford Dam) on their end (the Chattahoochee part) which formed Lake Lanier. This reduced the water flow into the Flint River in Alabama, which flows into the Appalachicola River in Florida, and ultimately into the Gulf of Mexico. The amount of water allowed to flow into the Flint and therefore, the Appalachicola, is controlled by the Corps of Engineers.
So the states involved have spent years alternately suing each other or the Corps. It hasn’t reached the Supreme Court yet, but it will. We have, here in the Southeast, not reached the level of water wars so common in the West, but we are getting there.
Now we will pause for a moment to consider the following topic, which will tie in later: Smart Growth. An oxymoron if there ever was one. But as online friend Jeff Watson says, he’s a conservative because he has something to conserve. Ditto Florida. Beautiful white sand beaches, the Everglades, wildlife of an astonishing variety, terrain which ranges from near-desert to tropical lushness. So Florida enacted laws to protect all that, which it regularly ignores. But at least it tried.
In Georgia, there are apparently no such laws. The once lovely area my sister lives in (a stone’s throw from Buford Dam), north-northeast of Atlanta, used to be rolling pastures filled with horse barns. Now it’s filled with Toyota dealerships, Hampton Inns, and Wal-Marts. And it happened lightning-fast. (Translation: About five years, way less than umpty-jillion.)
We now return to our regularly scheduled programming involving water wars. The real fight is between Georgia and Florida. Alabama is just kind of stuck in the middle, and generally sides with Florida. (If we don’t get any, they don’t either.) Georgia’s argument is that it needs the water in Lake Lanier to supply drinking water to Atlanta. Plus, they say, it’s our water. It starts here. Florida says, it’s not your water, it’s our water too. Florida needs it for the oyster industry, since the fresh water from the Appalachicola flowing into the Gulf creates the perfect breeding ground for oysters.
The latest in a surprising ruling by some Federal court or another is this: Georgia may not keep as much water as it wants (needs), because Lake Lanier was not originally created for the purpose of supplying drinking water to Atlanta. Temporarily, Florida wins. I’m pretty sure Georgia is suing somebody about it.
Long ago, Fakename came up with a solution to this problem. It involves building a very large, electrified fence around Atlanta and its suburbs, which is patrolled by border guards. No one is allowed inside the fence unless someone already inside dies. That way, Atlanta can make do with the water it already has. Fakesister commented that it’s a good thing Fakename is not an elected official. But in milder form, my solution would work. Stop development. If you can’t get water, you can’t build. As crazy as I may sound, this will in fact be the ultimate resolution. Georgia will be forced to curb its appetite. It can either do it on its own terms, or be forced into it by the federal government. (All you libertarians out there, read and weep.)
This brings me to the concept of urban planning. My friend Judith has a degree in it, and taught me that in order to get anything done which benefits wildlife or the environment, you have to somehow make the argument that it benefits people. Thus with the infamous “turtle tunnel” here in Tallahassee. The argument had to be made that turtles crossing a major highway were hazardous, which is in fact true. Drivers either swerve to avoid them, or hit them. Then the turtles in some cases become hard-shelled missiles capable of breaking your windshield (and there were pictures to prove it).
The deal is that most people are not capable of thinking beyond their noses. They are not capable of grasping how the survival of turtles benefits them. And they are not capable of understanding how important water is. Possibly until the day they turn on the faucet and nothing comes out. Do I sound elitist? Guilty as charged…because those people have to be protected from themselves.
Presently I’m reading Jane Goodall’s latest book, “Hope for Animals and Their World”. Subtitled “How Endangered Species are Being Rescued from the Brink”. The very first section is about animals who already, in our lifetimes, have become extinct in the wild. And why should we care?
Well, most of us will not notice until we go out on the patio and no birds are singing in the back yard (see: Rachel Carson). Or until we turn on the water faucet and nothing comes out.