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10/18/00 - Regional water authority gains steam


The Walton Tribune

Regional water authority gains steam

By Robert Hale       The Walton Tribune                   Published Oct. 18, 2000


WALTON COUNTY - Walton County is being included in a proposal by regional political and business leaders to form a 16-county water planning district which would focus on long-term water quality issues.
Members of the 34-member Clean Water Initiative task force voted two weeks ago to pursue a plan for asking the Georgia General Assembly to create a Metro Atlanta Water Planning District which would assume the lead in planning for water supply, storm water control and treatment of sewage in counties surrounding Atlanta. The counties involved are part of four regional watersheds.
The impact of such a sizable alliance could be far reaching, but to what extent is largely unknown, said Elizabeth Harris, chairman of the Walton County Water and Sewerage Authority.
"I'm glad to see there's at least some conceptual definition of what this (water district) is and what its responsibilities will be," said Harris, "but I think there still must be a lot of discussion between those (counties) mentioned as being part of the initiative."
The counties named in the proposal are Douglas, Fayette, Clayton, Henry, Dekalb, Rockdale, Newton, Walton, Gwinnett, Fulton, Cobb, Hall, Forsyth, Bartow, Paulding and Cherokee.
The 35-member district, with 19 members being elected officials and 16 from the public, would be similar in structure to the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority, would be established by the state legislature and would be overseen by the state's Environmental Protection Division. The district itself would have no regulatory or enforcement authority.
Harris said she has perused most of the proposal by the Clean Water Initiative, but that she has not studied it closely enough to determine its long-range implications.
"The work of a body this size generally takes a good bit of time," she said. "In the short term, I think the results of the recent Alcovy Watershed study will mean much more to us in tangible terms.
"One of the things we must keep in mind, also, is that from a regional standpoint, one solution doesn't work for all water supplies.
"All of the data must be analyzed and looked at with regard to individual situations, such as the Alcovy River. Some rules may be great for one area and have an opposite effect in others."
And what about Walton County's role in the regional alliance? Harris said it will be important for local authorities to have a voice as decisions are made.
"I think it would be important for Walton County to be represented on the larger board as well as on the technical advisory side," she said. "We need people involved who can digest the program, do their homework, understand the advantages and disadvantages locally, and then explain it all to the public.
"We also all need to realize that if we want to preserve the clean and green environment we enjoy in Walton County, we will have to be willing to look at new ways of doing things and perhaps modifying them as we progress. There won't be any simple solutions for our long-term water resources."

For more information on this article contact: tribstaff@waltontribune.com