An environmental watchdog group’s annual “Dirty Dozen” report criticizes Gov. Nathan Deal’s $300 million Water Supply Program, which includes an undetermined amount for the proposed Glades Reservoir in Hall County.
“Since its inception, the program has distributed $196.3 million for dams and reservoirs, with most of those funds going toward projects of questionable need,” states the report, issued Wednesday by the Georgia Water Coalition.
“These efforts to capture water in North Georgia before a tri-state resolution is reached on how much water can be used from the big federal reservoirs — (lakes) Lanier and Allatoona — are premature and have served only to aggravate relations with Alabama and Florida.”
Georgia, Florida and Alabama have been locked in a 20-year battle over water sharing in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River basin, including Lake Lanier.
Florida is trying to get the U.S. Supreme Court to accept a legal action it filed last year alleging water overconsumption by Georgia that has drained flows into the Apalachicola Bay, home of Florida’s oyster industry.
In November 2013, the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority announced it would invest up to $44.9 million in “state direct investment” for four “strategically located reservoir and water supply projects,” including Glades, spokesman Shane Hix has said.
A decision from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on whether to issue a permit for the construction of Glades is now scheduled for December 2015.
The Dirty Dozen report also says the “greatest boondoggles” of the water supply program were the awarding of some $9 million for a new well for Lake Lanier Islands Resort and an experimental and “highly speculative flow augmentation scheme on creeks in the Flint River basin.”
The projects benefited “political cronies of Gov. Deal despite the fact that both projects scored 0 on a scale of 0-100 when evaluated for need,” the report states.
Deal’s spokeswoman, Sasha Dlugolenski, struck back at the report, saying, “Gov. Deal’s water program has deep support in the General Assembly. It’s clearly a bipartisan goal.”
She also lashed out at the Georgia Water Coalition.
“This is a coalition of liberal groups pretending to be nonpartisan, but no one’s buying that,” Dlugolenski said, adding that the last two reports were released in mid-November. “To put out such a ridiculous list two weeks before an election is simply a slanted political attack.”
She went on to say “many of these groups are outspoken opponents of the deepening of the Savannah Harbor” and that Glades Reservoir “is important for augmenting the flow of the entire basin.”
In a teleconference with reporters Wednesday morning, water coalition officials were asked if the report’s timing had “any connection to the election.”
Deal, a Republican, faces Democratic challenger Jason Carter in his bid for re-election.
“This (report) is something that is released every fall and we decided to release this one in October,” said Chris Manganiello, policy director for the Georgia River Network, which is on the coalition’s leadership team.
The nonprofit group doesn’t “engage in electioneering,” he added.