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Chattahoochee River past, present: Two speakers part of Paddle Georgia

Two local authorities are on deck to talk about the past and present roles of the Chattahoochee River in as part of the annual Paddle Georgia festival.

The speakers are Tom Baxter, a political correspondent with SaportaReport, and Clarke Otten, a Civil War historian who focuses on Sandy Springs and overlooked aspects of the war – such as how the Union army crossed the river.

The free events are scheduled June 23 and 24 along the banks of the river at Riverview Landing, a former industrial tract in Mableton that’s to be retooled into a mixed-use community by the company redeveloping Ponce City Market in Atlanta.

Georgia River Network honors efforts to conserve state’s waterways

The Georgia River Network has issued three awards to recognize efforts to conserve Georgia’s waterways.

The non-profit organization may best be known for its annual Paddle Georgia event, which this year is covering 115 miles from Buford Dam to Franklin. The awards program, now in its 10th year, acknowledges the work it takes to protect the state’s waters and riverbanks.

This year’s awards were won by the Yellow River Water Trail group, in Porterdale; Ogeechee Riverkeeper Emily Markesteyn, in Savannah; and Satilla Riverkeeper Clay Montague, in Waverly. They were presented April 5 at an event at the Chattahoochee Nature Center, in Roswell.

Georgia DNR board defers consideration of plan intended to expand hog farming across state

Environmentalists are praising a decision by state officials to delay consideration of a proposal to ease regulations on hog farming.

“We applaud the DNR Board for helping to put a stop to the shortsighted rollback,” Chris Manganiello, policy director for Georgia River Network, said in a statement.

The state decided to pull the proposal for further review following the large number of public comments received, most of them negative, DNR spokesman Kevin Chambers said Monday. An additional public notice will be released if the department decides to pursue the proposal, Chambers said.

Sustainable wedding: Altar in a pecan orchard draws farmers from near, far

This is the conclusion of our three-part series on Georgia’s sustainable food movement. Links to previous stories are at the bottom of this report.

Gordon – Farm weddings are all the rage these days, but that’s not why Chelsea Losh and Bobby Jones chose a rustic setting.

They live and work on Babe+Sage Farm. These two graduates of Georgia College have worked since summer 2011 to reclaim the old Oetter place and grow it into a sustainable vegetable farm.

Their wedding celebration showed that they have grown a way of life, as well. Friends traveled from farms as far as West Virginia and as near as Sparta. And there was a surprising link involving relatives in Alabama and the Jenny Jack Sun Farm in Pine Mountain.

Rain threatened to dampen the Losh-Jones wedding day, Nov. 23. There never was any real question the venue would be moved from an altar in a pecan orchard, a reception at a barn, and dinner and dancing on a field near the farmhouse.

Sustainable policies: New regulations may affect backyard farmers, organic growers as rules chase market

Editor’s Note: This is the second story in our three-part series on Georgia’s sustainable food movement. The series concludes Thanksgiving Day with a visit to a farm-to-table wedding.

People should be allowed to grow food for their own consumption on their own property. At least, that’s the theory behind legislation pending in Atlanta City Hall and the Georgia General Assembly.

“Especially during these hard economic times, people ought to be able to raise their own food in their own yard,” said state Rep. Karla Drenner (D-Avondale Estates), who sponsored House Bill 618.

Sustainable packaging: The food container is just as important as the edible contents it transports

Editor’s Note: This is the first story in our three-part series on Georgia’s sustainable food movement. The second story will explore the state of the current sustainable food industry. The conclusion will visit a farm-to-table wedding.

Consumer criticism of the basic styrofoam cup once dimmed the future of Freshens, the large Atlanta-based yogurt and smoothie company.

Freshens’ ditched those non-degradable cups and replaced them with totally compostable ones in a dramatic example of the evolution in food packaging, according to Christian Hardigree, a professor at Kennesaw State University.

Proposal that could expand hog farming, waste lagoons in Georgia draws fire from environmentalists

A proposal that could increase the number of hogs farmed in Georgia is drawing criticism from environmentalists concerned about hog excrement.

Hogs produce a lot of waste – about four times that of a human. The current practice for handling hog waste on industrial-scale farms is to store it in earthen basins, called lagoons, until it can be sprayed on surrounding lands.

The concerns raised by the Georgia Water Coalition involve the handling of this amount of waste in this manner. They point to the experience in North Carolina, where heavy rains from a hurricane in 1999 caused lagoons to flood and fail, spreading millions of gallons of hog waste that found its way into rivers and private water wells.

Cobb, Cherokee counties so densely developed that I-75 managed lanes project won’t impact environment

The I-75 corridor in Cobb and Cherokee counties is so densely developed that the 30-mile, two-lane toll road to be built in the corridor will have few negative environmental or social impacts.

This is the conclusion of the environmental impact study of the project completed by the Georgia Department of Transportation. While there’s no surprise in the result, the lack of impact on critters and land emphasizes the magnitude of the existing highway and development in Atlanta’s northwestern suburbs.

“This project is defined as the marginal addition of concrete to a 15-lane road,” said Brian Gist, a lawyer with the Southern Environmental Law Center. “When defined that way, it’s easy to come to the conclusion that it will have no effect.”

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Georgia geneticist challenges evolution, links humans to pigs

To Athens geneticist Gene McCarthy, pigs used to conjure filth and greed. But after years of research into this species, McCarthy sees a kindred spirit. Pigs, according to his Hybrid Hypothesis published last month on his website, Macroevolution.net, helped create humans by mating with chimpanzees.

As radical as it sounds—not to mention a coupling that many of us would rather not visualize–McCarthy is also following the steps of scientists like Galileo who risked derision to revolutionize how we understand our world and how we got here.

Planning for water in metro Atlanta and its effect on rivers that nurture oysters in Apalachicola

Editor’s Note: This is the third of three stories this week that look at water issues that affect metro Atlanta. Click to read the first story and the second story.

The debate over how to meet the water needs of metro Atlanta comes down to two different principles – whether the region should use less water, or provide greater supply through additional reservoirs.

Even that reduction doesn’t go far enough. For one, there’s not a consensus on how much water the region will need in the future. In addition, there’s little agreement on the data and science used in the debate.

If this sounds familiar, it is – transportation and the proposed 1 percent sales tax that was on the ballot in 2012 to pay for roads and transit. One difference with the water debate is that the public probably won’t be asked to decide for or against whatever solution is reached by water planners over the next two years.

Prayers for rain, Senate takes on Supreme Court ruling – all part of Georgia’s water policy issues

Editor’s Note: This is the second of three stories this week that will look at water issues that affect metro Atlanta.

Metro Atlanta probably celebrated too swiftly after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year the region may continue to draw drinking water from Lake Lanier.

Though the ruling was rightly portrayed, by Georgians, as a major victory, the battle is far from over. The U.S. Senate toyed with the court’s ruling last month before it adopted omnibus water legislation. Water proposals abound in Georgia – where lakes are full six years after a governor led prayers for rain.

All of this results in water supply remaining one of the region’s major policy questions. Not to be overlooked are neighboring communities, and creatures, who rely on the same sources of water.

Attention to Apalachicola fishing industry touches a nerve among Atlanta water resource leaders

Editor’s Note: This is the first of three stories this week that will look at water issues affecting metro Atlanta.

Maybe it was just the comments about metro Atlanta’s water usage by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. that triggered the outcry.

Or it could have been a story in The New York Times, which ran a few days earlier, on the potential demise of the seafood industry in Apalachicola Bay. One factor cited was a shortage of fresh water entering the bay from the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee Flint river system.

Taken separately or collectively, the comments by Kennedy and the Times piece alarmed some business and government leaders involved in the management of metro Atlanta’s water resources. The ruckus reminds that despite full lakes, the region and Georgia are in a pivotal moment concerning long-term water issues.

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Cicadas to pervade eastern U.S., but not Atlanta

All that buzz about locusts descending soon is just that.

The Brood II cicada infestation is starting to emerge as billions of the creatures make their every-17-year appearance. What USA Today and others call “Swarmageddon” is reminiscent of the Biblical plague of locusts.

They aren’t coming here, the experts say, because Atlanta has cut down too many trees and laid down too many parking lots. Our city’s growth has further separated us from what some entomologists call an “amazing natural phenomenon.”

“We’re having a lot of cicada envy right now. A lot of people want to see them again, but here in Georgia, I’m afraid it’s not to going to happen,” said Nancy Hinkle, a professor of entomology at the University of Georgia. “At least not in the vast majority of the state.”

lauren joy edited photo

Time for Georgia to recommit to water conservation and regional plans

By Guest Columnist LAUREN JOY, an associate attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center

In 2011, many Atlantans were relieved by the court determination that water supply was an authorized purpose of Lake Lanier. Despite this “win” for Atlanta in the Tri-State Water Wars, we must continue to treat water supply as an ongoing and important issue for Atlanta and the state.

The “Water Wars” are far from over, and the best step we can take to secure and sustain our state’s water supplies is to improve our statewide water planning efforts.

Chattanooga: Eating our lunch in liveability

When Atlantans look around for other cities to compare theirs with, they think major league all the way. They measure their growth against Houston and Dallas. They travel to Denver and Seattle to find civic inspiration and worry that Charlotte and Nashville are gaining on them.

But as we contemplate the hotter, wetter future we discussed last week, we might be better off taking a look at Chattanooga.

Yes, Chattanooga. Seldom do we think of our neighbor across the Tennessee line as much of a competitor. When they built an aquarium, we just built a bigger one. But for nearly three decades, since a group of civic leaders got together in 1984 and committed themselves to doing something about Chattanooga’s image as the dirtiest city in America, and in the view of some the dullest, they have been eating our lunch on the playing field of liveability.

A future with a lot of ‘Hotlantas’

It’s going to rain, and we’re not just talking about the next couple of days. The news won’t come as much consolation to Georgia farmers struggling through a multi-year drought, but according to the most sophisticated climate model ever attempted for the eastern United States, their problem 44 years from now won’t be lack of rain, but torrential storms and flooding.

And it will be hot, but it may seem hotter in some places than it does in others.

We can begin speculating about such things because of the unprecedented degree of detail in a study conducted by researchers at the University of Tennessee, Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health and the National Center for Atmospheric Research, published in the Nov. 6 edition of Environmental Research Letters.

Appetite for groupon to farm-to-table cafe shows demand for organic foods

The farm-to-table movement has reached the point in metro Atlanta that today it is attracting buyers in a deal-of-the-day internet coupon.

Sweet Potato Cafe, in Stone Mountain, is offering a half-price deal for brunch, lunch or dinner through groupon.com. Over 100 deals had been sold by mid morning.

Georgia’s movement of sustainable agriculture also marks another milestone: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN’s chief medical correspondent, has signed on as the keynote speaker of the Farm Rx conference sponsored in February by Georgia Organics.

Regional Business Coalition joins effort to promote rainwater harvesting

The message about the value of rainwater harvesting should reach a broader audience this year.

The Regional Business Council has signed on as a partner with the Southeast Rainwater Harvesting Systems Assoc., a non-profit that promotes the endeavor. The RBC plans to spread the message through the business community, possibly throughs chambers of commerce, as well as the private sector.

“What caught my attention was the significant amount of water we as a region could save through rainwater harvesting,” said Terry Lawler, the RBC’s executive director. “Our organization has the capacity to get this message into the public eye in a way that will be bigger than the volunteer organization can.”

Georgia Rep. Stephanie Benfield to become GreenLaw’s executive director

By Maria Saporta

The environmentally-focused law firm — GreenLaw — has hired a new executive director.

Stephanie Stuckey Benfield, a DeKalb representative of Georgia General Assembly since 1999, will become GreenLaw’s executive on April 9.

The news was announced in an email to GreenLaw’s friends Wednesday by Greg Presmanes, who is chairman of GreenLaw’s board.

“I am so excited that Stephanie will be leading our team forward into its third decade of giving Georgia’s environment its day in court,” Presmanes said.