American Rivers lists Flint River among country’s most endangered

By David Pendered

The Flint River ranks second on the list of the country’s most-endangered rivers, according to the latest ranking by American Rivers, a 40-year-old organization that works to protect waterways.

The Flint River begins in Hapeville and becomes one of Georgia's most scenic rivers, according to the New Georgia Encyclopedia. Credit: sherpaguides.com

The Flint River begins in Hapeville and becomes one of Georgia’s most scenic rivers, according to the New Georgia Encyclopedia. Credit: sherpaguides.com

The Flint made the list for the same reason cited when it was included on the “Dirty Dozen” list compiled last year by the Georgia Water Coalition – poor water management.

The two reports essentially oppose the state’s plans for the Flint River, which have the stated aim of providing water at affordable prices. The river groups contend the plans will further reduce water flow in the Flint, harming living creatures and threatening the recreation-based economy of regions that rely on the river and its tributaries.

The summary about the Flint River as provided by American Rivers states:

  • No. 2: Flint River (Georgia)
  • THREAT: Outdated water management
  • AT RISK:  Water supply for communities, farms, recreation, and wildlife
  • The Flint River provides water for over one million people, 10,000 farms, unique wildlife, and 300 miles of exceptional fishing and paddling. Despite being in a historically wet area of the country, in recent years many Flint River tributaries have dried up completely. American Rivers and Flint Riverkeeper are working in collaboration with diverse partners to restore the flows and health of the Flint. The State of Georgia also has a role to play and must act to protect the Flint in droughts and at all times to safeguard the river’s health for current and future generations.
The Flint River begins in Hapeville and winds its way toward a junction in south Georgia with the Chattahoochee River. Credit: sherpaguides.com

The Flint River begins in Hapeville and winds its way toward a junction in south Georgia with the Chattahoochee River. Credit: sherpaguides.com

The Flint River may not receive the public attention of its sister to the west, the Chatthoochee River. But the Flint certainly is as essential waterway. According to The New Georgia Encyclopedia, it begins in Hapeville as groundwater seepage from the mouth of a culvert, flows beneath Atlanta’s airport, and within 50 miles has become one of “Georgia’s most scenic and diverse rivers.”

According to the report from American Rivers: “The Flint River provides water for at least 1 million people, 10,000 farms, world-class fishing, seven unique species, and flocks of boaters who come to experience the river’s 300 miles of exceptional paddling.”

In a report released in November, the Georgia Water Coalition ranked the Flint River fourth on its list of “Dirty Dozen” offenses to the state’s waterways:

  • Flint River: Governor’s Water Supply Program Invests in Boondoggles Instead of Water Supply
  • When Nathan Deal became Governor in 2011 he created the $300 million Governor’s Water Supply Program (GWSP) to fund “critical, cost‐effective” projects that will provide “an adequate supply of clean and affordable water” for communities in need. In August 2012, the Deal Administration released the first $102 million in this program. The bulk of the money went to reservoir projects of dubious need and to businesses and individuals that were supporters of Deal’s gubernatorial campaign. Two projects proposed by Deal supporters received $9 million in direct state investment (funds not requiring reimbursement to the state), including an experimental groundwater injection experiment on the Flint River and a well for Lake Lanier Islands Development Authority, a private resort and water park. Neither project could be considered critical or cost effective. In fact, the Flint River project could ultimately cost $1.2 billion.”

Meanwhile, water management plans are being pursued or updated by various governmental entities. They include:

  • Gov. Nathan Deal is pursuing a water management policy that includes the use of reservoirs:
  • The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is updating a management plan for the Chattahoochee River – the first update of the plan in more than 50 years:
  • The Metro North Georgia Water Planning District is working toward its 2014 update of the regional water plan.
  • The Georgia Legislature approved House Resolution 4, which calls for Tennessee to surrender a slice of its sovereign land to allow Georgia to withdraw water from the Tennessee River.

Observations of these plans, and some alternative methods, have been provided by non-governmental organizations including the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper and Georgia River Network. SaportaReport.com columnist Tom Baxter also provided his insights to the Tennessee River proposal.

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

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