What’s Happenin’ on The Hooch?

Have you been wondering what has been happening with The Hooch?  The Chattahoochee River was #3 on last year’s list of America’s Most Endangered Rivers®.  Today the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper team gives us an update!

Chattahoochee River fishing | © Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper

Last year, American Rivers listed the Chattahoochee River as one of America’s Most Endangered Rivers® because of the threat posed by two proposed reservoirs.  Thanks in part to the efforts of Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, American Rivers, Georgia River Network, Southern Environmental Law Center, Trout Unlimited, and others, there has been little movement on either project since the release of the report last year.

Glades Reservoir— In April 2012, our organizations submitted extensive comments to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Army Corps) on the scope of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for Glades Reservoir (Hall County).  At that time, our comments focused primarily on the fact that the project, contrary to the applicant’s assertion, would not function as an actual water supply project and instead relied on a convoluted engineering scheme that in the absence of a severe drought would leave the reservoir full at the expense of healthy river flows.  Moreover, the project assumed that access to Lake Lanier for future water supply was not a viable option— that assumption became invalid in June 2012 when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit assured metro Atlanta access to Lanier to meet its current and at least some of its future water supply needs.

In August 2012, partly in response to our opposition as well as the 11th Circuit ruling, Hall County revised the Glades proposal.  The draft EIS has been delayed until Fall 2013 in order to address the changes in the project design as well as to evaluate new population projections for Hall County that suggest slower growth than originally anticipated.

The release of the draft EIS represents another opportunity for river supporters to comment on the project, emphasizing the need to maximize water conservation and efficiency efforts locally and regionally.  In the meantime, to learn more about what metro Atlanta can do to save water and money, see Chattahoochee Riverkeeper’s recent report— Filling the Water Gap: Conservation Successes and Missed Opportunities in Metro Atlanta.

Bear Creek Reservoir— Although the Army Corps has not required an EIS for the project, thus far they have rejected the applicant’s proposed mitigation plan and requested additional hydrological modeling to assess the impacts the project will have on the Chattahoochee River. In other good news, the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority, which is in charge of the Governor’s Water Supply Program and the distribution of $300 million in loans and grants, rejected the applicant’s request for funding for the project.  This project appears to be at least temporarily on hold.

For more on the potential costs and risks associated with building new reservoirs in the southeast, including Glades and Bear Creek, see American River’s recent report— Money Pit: The High Cost & High Risk of Water Supply Reservoirs in the Southeast.