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Crawford: Lanier ruling could swamp state's progress
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That gurgling sound you hear is the sound of metro Atlanta's economic prospects going slowly down the drain.

That prospect is more likely now with the ruling from federal Judge Paul Magnuson that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers never had the legal authority to allow Atlanta to withdraw water from Lake Lanier.

This was not a surprise to those who've been paying attention. Georgia has been squabbling with Alabama and Florida for years over the Lanier issue and it was inevitable that at some point the courts were going to step in and turn off the faucet.

Our elected leadership has had years to do something about this possibility. Environmentalists have been urging the governor and legislature to get serious about requiring water conservation and stopping their developer friends from building subdivisions and shopping malls wherever they pleased.

The leadership didn't heed that advice, convinced that they would always be able to rely on the Lanier reservoir to provide water for those developments growing like a cancer around the metro area.

Judge Magnuson was aware of this cozy relationship between politicians and developers, noting in his decision, "Too often, state, local and even national government actors do not consider the long-term consequences of their decisions. Local governments allow unchecked growth because it increases tax revenue, but these same governments do not sufficiently plan for the resources such unchecked growth will require."

"The big money development boomers have been paying big bucks for the fantasy that they would never have to face this reality," House Minority Leader DuBose Porter said. "The federal court has said, in effect, time to close the story book - Humpty Dumpty has had a great fall."

Gov. Sonny Perdue, as he sometimes does in these situations, got angry at the judge rather than acknowledge his own shortcomings.

"I am deeply disappointed by Judge Magnuson's decision," Perdue said. "I will use this opportunity not only to appeal the judge's decision but, most importantly, to urge Congress to address the realities of modern reservoir usage,"

Somebody needs to tell Perdue that his good friend George W. Bush is no longer president and his political party is no longer the majority party in Congress. The state's ability to draw water from Lanier hinges on its success in persuading Congress to pass legislation within three years authorizing those withdrawals.

Unfortunately for Georgia, nine of its 15 congressional members are Republicans at a time when Democrats have the majority. Two of its Democratic House members, Jim Marshall and John Barrow, might as well be Republicans because they're more likely to vote with the GOP than with their own caucus.

The Republicans in the state's congressional delegation are in an especially weak position when it comes to asking for help from the majority Democrats.

Rep. Paul Broun is a loudmouth who makes crazy statements comparing Barack Obama to Hitler.

Reps. Tom Price, Lynn Westmoreland and Jack Kingston don't accomplish much legislatively because they devote their energies to mocking and taunting the Democratic leadership. That may give them a lot of personal satisfaction, but it also means they won't get any sympathy when they ask Democrats to help them on the water issue.

Sen. Saxby Chambliss would rather spend his time securing farm subsidy payments and pork-barrel defense contracts for his lobbyist buddies than work on something as boring as water policy.

Rep. Nathan Deal is one of the more rational voices on his side of the aisle, but he's leaving Congress to run for governor. Sen. Johnny Isakson will at least listen to reason, but his party is now down to 40 seats in the Senate and that number seems to keep shrinking.

Georgia's prospects for getting congressional permission to use Lanier can be boiled down to this: We're sunk.

Perdue is either unwilling or incapable of doing anything, outside of complaining in press releases, that will address the issue that becomes more urgent by the day.

We should all hope that whoever is elected governor next year will sit down with the legislative leadership and start making those hard decisions on conserving water and limiting development that might enable the state to continue using Lanier.
The hour is getting very late, however, and they are running out of time.

Tom Crawford is the editor of Capitol Impact's Georgia Report, an Internet news service at www.gareport.com.

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