Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle blamed the prolonged drought and mismanagement of the state’s river systems by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the state’s current water crisis.
Cagle, a Chestnut Mountain Republican, spoke Thursday morning to a group of business leaders at the annual Eggs and Issues Breakfast sponsored by the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce and held at the Gainesville Civic Center.
"We’re not in this (water) crisis because of growth," Cagle said. "We’re in this situation for two reasons. One, we’re in the worst drought in our state’s history. Secondly, the Corps of Engineers have mismanaged the lake (Lanier)."
He accused the corps of allowing water to go downstream "for the purpose of feeding mussels."
State Rep. Carl Rogers, R-Gainesville, took issue with Cagle’s assertion that growth was not a factor.
"I get to see 30 sky cranes every day," Rogers said of his regular trips to Atlanta. "Atlanta is using resources. I’m not blaming Atlanta for all of our issues. We just don’t have the water flow that other states have."
Rogers also called for using the time of reduced levels for dredging on Lanier to make it larger and deeper in selected areas.
Also, Cagle offered his assessment on the Georgia Department of Transportation, saying the agency is "in shambles."
"We have in excess of 1,400 lawsuits down there (at the DOT). We have deficits on various programs to the tune of about $4 billion. They are operating under a model that is similar to what took place in Georgia in the 1960s," Cagle said.
He said he has confidence in newly named DOT Commissioner Gina Abraham to reorganize and modernize the agency.
Cagle also criticized attempts to unseat current transportation board members, including 9th District member Mike Evans of Cumming, who voted for Abraham.
Evans has been at the forefront of a dispute over the new commissioner and likely will be opposed by a candidate supported by House Speaker Glenn Richardson.
Rogers said conditions are worse than Cagle was aware of.
"They are much more extreme than he mentioned," Rogers said. "We all knew there were some deficiencies, but they were much more deficient than we ever thought they were going to be."
While not mentioning how he would vote, Rogers pointed out that in the 9th District there are 17 House members and seven senators who will vote on the DOT post, giving the House an advantage in the voting.
There are five DOT board members who are up for re-election this year. The members of the House and Senate from the respective districts vote in secret for the candidate.
The other subject that is expected to draw significant attention in the upcoming legislative session is Richardson’s plan to eliminate ad valorem taxes on property.
None of the House members offered any details on Richardson’s plan, which has been met with criticism by school board, municipal and county officials around the state. Richardson has proposed replacing property taxes with a higher rate of sales tax on both goods and services.
The 40-day session of the General Assembly will begin on Jan. 7.