Moving forward for a healthy Flint River
When Georgia’s Flint River appeared on our America’s Most Endangered Rivers of 2013 list, American Rivers and our allies were in the middle of a legislative battle that spanned two full sessions of the Georgia General Assembly. It was a long, hard fight, but in the end, Flint Riverkeeper and many Georgia Water Coalition partners including American Rivers were successful in bringing about major improvements to a bad piece of legislation, the Flint River Drought Protection Act. A vastly improved bill (though not an entirely necessary piece of legislation) passed the Georgia House and Senate in March of this year.
That said, there is plenty of work still to do to set the Flint on a path toward recovery. The Most Endangered listing called attention to the over-allocation of the Flint’s waters—a fundamental problem that the Drought Protection Act doesn’t really address. But as soon as another dry year arrives, it will become even clearer that a long-term solution needs to be found.
Thankfully, this year has been relatively normal on the rainfall gauge so far. But now that it’s midsummer, the river is dropping. In the upper Flint, this means that very soon, the river will be too low to be worth paddling. In the past, this point typically arrived closer to autumn, but due to the damage the river system has suffered, it now arrives earlier in the year—even in a year with normal rainfall.
And that’s just one of many storylines we highlighted in our Running Dry report on the upper Flint River, which came out last year. What we’ve seen since then is that the Running Dry report has very effectively changed the conversation. It’s begun to focus decision-makers’ attention on the low-flow problems plaguing the upper Flint. We’re hard at work right now on taking the next steps, mapping out ways to begin restoring healthy flows in the river in collaboration with the water suppliers in the basin and a wide array of other partners.
It’s our hope that State of Georgia officials will see the need for a holistic, basin-wide, science-based approach to restoring flows in the Flint. We’ve got to manage the waters of the Flint River basin sustainably, and keep all of the many people who depend on the Flint in mind, for today and future generations.