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Lumpkin County residents call for delaying construction

Moratorium would conserve water

POSTED: October 27, 2007 5:05 a.m.
On Monday morning, Lumpkin County residents filed a request with the state Environmental Protection Division to put a moratorium on all construction for at least a year.

The request was made in the midst of the worst drought the region has seen in 100 years.

"It’s a dire situation here," said Jim Smulian, a Dahlonega resident and spokesman for Citizens for Open and Responsible Government Inc. "We need to do something now."

Smulian said the reservoir serving Lumpkin County and Dahlonega currently has more water going out than coming in.

An additional valve has been added to the reservoir to help regulate water going out, but Smulian said the water level is so low that he can see to the bottom.

Many of the wells in the county have gone dry. Smulian said it has been reported that the well drillers aren’t available until early next year because they are so backed up.

Lumpkin County Commissioner John Raber said he spoke with fellow commissioners, the Dahlonega City Council and Mayor Gary McCullough in January about the need to develop an emergency water plan.

"It’s something we can’t wait for," Raber said. "We do have a water crisis."

In the 1980s Raber said more than 70 percent of the wells in Lumpkin County went dry. They took water trucks out to refill them.

At that time the city had only one-third of the population it does now.

Smulian is concerned because the headwaters of the Chattahoochee and Etowah rivers are located in northern Lumpkin County.

Those rivers feed into Lake Lanier as well as lake Allatoona, which is on the west side of the state.

Smulian said now is a good time to halt construction because the real estate and commercial markets are down. He said a moratorium would probably save 20 to 30 percent of the water used in the county.

"Most of it’s wasted in construction," he said. "They just let hoses run."

Smulian said if residents can get one county to halt its construction, it possibly could spread throughout the northern part of the state.

Raber acknowledged that the water problem doesn’t just affect Lumpkin County.

"I think that Georgia as a whole ... we’ve done a poor job in preparing for the very problem that we have now," he said.

Raber said the state needs more lakes, water ponds, and a better way to reclaim water.

He said it will have to find a water distribution system such as the ones in Nevada and California, two states he said have never declared a level four water alert because of proper planning.

Smulian expressed disappointment in what he said has been a lack of planning on part of Lumpkin County.

"This county is not planning ahead as they should to protect the citizens," he said. "We want to take action now so the citizens will have water."



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