By Maria Saporta
After a pow wow on water at the Governor’s Mansion earlier today, Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin gave a luncheon speech to the Buckhead Business Association, where she praised Gov. Sonny Perdue for taking a lead on this issue.
The water summit followed last week’s ruling by U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson that most of metro Atlanta does not have the legal right to access water from Lake Lanier. The judge gave the Georgia a three-year window to try to find a solution either with the Congress or with the governments of Alabama and Florida.
That ruling certainly has gotten the governor’s attention.
“He did a very good job in presenting a summary of the ruling, and he challenged us to work together,” Franklin said of Perdue. “It’s not a partisan issues. It’s not an Atlanta issue. It’s a Georgia issue. I really applaud him for his leadership on this issue. Let’s give a cheer and applause to the governor for pulling everybody together.”
The governor had about 130 state, regional and local government and business leaders at the mansion to galvanize aroud this issue.
Perdue is setting up a task force on water that will be chaired by Georgia Power President Mike Garrett.
For Franklin, the ruling was a reminder that decisions made 50 years ago have reprecussions or benefits five decades later.
“The hardest thing that I do is to think out 50 years and work back,” she said.
Metro Atlanta’s water quandry can be traced by to the tenure of the late Atlanta Mayor William Hartsfield.
Franklin, who attended the federal hearing in Jacksonville to learn more about the legal climate of the water dispute, said that 25 minutes of the four-hour hearing were about Hartsfield’s intentions at the time.
“There was a lengthy exchange during the hearing about what Atlanta’s position was as expressed at the time by Mayor Hartsfield,” Franklin said.
At the time, the city of Atlanta could have participated in the formation of Lake Lanier and paid for the rights for using it as a source of drinking water. But the entire metro area was a 10th the size it is today, and it may have been hard to imagine the water needs of a region with 6 million people.
Franklin said city residents must continue to conserve more water and change their practices.
“I personally don’t think you should do any outdoor watering,” Franklin said.
As to finding a longterm solution, Franklin said Georgia was going to have find a compromise and work together with its neighboring states.