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Feds put Hall, 157 other Georgia counties in disaster status over drought

POSTED: December 26, 2008 5:00 a.m.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has granted a request for a primary disaster designation for 158 counties, including Hall, based on production losses due to the ongoing drought and excessive temperatures.

The designation was sent in response to Gov. Sonny Perdue’s November request. It would make the areas affected eligible to apply for low interest loans.

"Drought conditions are devastating to farmers and farming communities," Perdue said in a statement released by his office. "Georgia’s farmers have sustained significant economic losses due to the dry conditions in Georgia, and I’m pleased that financial relief will now be available to them."

USDA declared 146 of Georgia’s 159 counties as primary natural disaster areas and 12 more as contiguous disaster areas. The only one of Georgia’s counties not covered by the primary or contiguous designation is McIntosh.

The governor’s office said the 12 counties not included in the primary designation will continue to be evaluated as more assessment reports and determinations of losses are completed by the USDA. The 12 counties are: Appling, Atkinson, Bacon, Bulloch, Camden, Coffee, Glynn, Liberty, Long, Terrell, Ware and Wayne.

On Thursday, the U.S. Drought Monitor reported that most of the Southeast is now drought-free except for Northeast Georgia and the Lake Lanier area. A wet December to date has helped boost rain levels throughout the region.

North Georgia remains under strict restrictions on most outdoor watering, although the rules were relaxed some to allow limited hand-watering several days each week.

Lake Lanier’s water level was at 1,052.30 feet above sea level as of 5 p.m. Thursday, some 19 feet below full pool but a foot higher than it was a week ago.

State officials say the message of conservation is still resonating. Water use by Georgia’s largest utilities dropped by 7 percent in October — the most recent month the data was collected — compared with the same month last year.

"We’re doing a good job conserving water, and we need to continue to do so," said Kevin Chambers of the state’s Environmental Protection Division.


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