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Chambliss: Water talks on track
Sen. Saxby Chambliss pays visit to Lake Lanier
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BUFORD — Standing on the shore at Lake Lanier Islands, U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., said Tuesday the record low lake level can be blamed, in part, on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

"They’ve not done a very good job of managing the water supply we’ve got," Chambliss said. "When I think back over the past few years, when I’ve seen situations come up where we had plenty of water, the management of the water was not done in the way it should have been."

Chambliss said high-level officials from Georgia, Florida and Alabama will be meeting next week in Shepherdstown, W.Va., to work on details of a long-term plan for water in the river systems that bisect the three states.

He said the three governors, who met in December, are scheduled to meet again in February to reach a final agreement.

"I think that may be overly optimistic, but the process is moving in the right direction," Chambliss said, adding that the resolution would be a state issue, not coming from the federal government.

Chambliss said he was troubled that his Alabama colleague, Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., would insert restrictive language into the massive appropriations bill to keep the corps from updating operating manuals, portions of which are 50 years old.

"I was very disappointed that Dick (Shelby) would do that," Chambliss said. "There is a way to do business and a way not to do business, unfortunately, Dick decided he’d do it anyway. I’ve let him know how disappointed I am."

Chambliss said he has told Shelby that he will try to reverse the language legislatively, if necessary.

"I feel pretty confident that our colleagues in the Senate will vote our way, because we don’t want to put one state against the other," Chambliss said.

Earlier in the afternoon, Chambliss appeared before members of the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce where he talked about the water situation and his Thanksgiving trip to visit U.S. military personnel in Iraq.

"I’m not happy yet with the way the Iraqi government is moving from the standpoint of stabilizing that country and putting the right folks in leadership positions to take over the running of the country," Chambliss said. "It been a slow process."

He said Iraq was much more secure than it has been in the last four and a half years. The senator predicted a draw down of U.S. troops to pre-surge levels by July 1.

"You won’t see this in the paper, but today, 50 percent of Iraq is maintained, from a security standpoint by the Iraqi military," Chambliss said. "Obviously, we need the other 50 percent to be totally secured by Iraqi soldiers and we’re slowing getting to that point."

Responding the questions from the audience, Chambliss predicted oil prices would rise.

"We haven’t started feeling the effect of $100 a barrel oil," he said. "It has nothing to do with utilization in the United States. It has everything to do with the demand that is coming out of China and India. As long as the demand is where it is, the price of oil is going to continue to go up."

He said the best solution is to continue looking at alternative fuels.

Chambliss, a member of the agriculture committee said the Senate version of the Farm Bill contains incentives for developing ethanol from cellulose.

"We can’t grow corn in Georgia like they do in Iowa, but we can grow pine trees," he said, adding that a proposed ethanol plant in Soperton would general fuel from the limbs of pine trees normally discarded in the harvest for pulpwood or lumber.