WATER MANAGEMENT -- (Senate - October 16, 2007)
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Mr. CHAMBLISS. Mr. President, I join my colleague, Senator Isakson from Georgia, in support of this legislation. Georgia is in a critical time in the history of our State. Atlanta, GA, is a great place to live, a great place to work, a great place to visit, but we are in a crisis. The water supply system for metropolitan Atlanta depends on two basins, Lake Altoona and Lake Lanier. Lake Altoona and Lake Lanier are fed by nature, by rainfall that every year, thus far in the history of those basins, has filled those basins since they were built decades ago.
Unfortunately, during the month of August, we received very little moisture. But at the time we were receiving very little moisture, we had more 100-degree day temperatures than we have ever had in the history of Atlanta. A combination of natural forces has put us in this situation of crisis, but there is also an unnatural source that has helped produce this crisis, and the legislation that Senator Isakson has proposed, along with my cosponsorship, seeks to address this critical problem and seeks to help find a solution to this problem for the short term.
Georgia's lakes are low and continue to decline as the Army Corps of Engineers releases water to protect a handful of sturgeons and mussels in the Appalachicola Bay in the State of Florida. Understandably, folks who have had mandatory water restrictions for months in our State, who are watching these lakes slowly decrease, are wondering where the common sense in Washington has gone. They are calling my office and asking: How can our Government care more about mussels and sturgeons than human beings? Obviously, that is not the case. But water continues to be released, and estimates are that Lake Lanier, Atlanta's main source of water, will be empty--and I repeat, will be empty--by January 2008 if the Corps does not stop releasing so much water or if we do not get rainfall. That is less than 3 months away.
It is clear that we are in a crisis. We need to do something to ensure we are not cutting off the drinking supply to 7 million people in the metropolitan Atlanta area. This legislation does something very simple and practical to address this crisis in the short term. It says, if the Secretary of the Army, in consultation with the Governor of a State, determines that a drought is in effect in a region in which there is a Federal river basin that is managed by the Corps of Engineers, and the drought threatens the health, safety, and welfare of the human population in that region, the Secretary of the Army can temporarily suspend provisions of the Endangered Species Act until such time as the drought is over and the health, safety, and welfare of humans is no longer at risk.
We have larger issues to address in the long term. Updating the water control manuals by which the Corps of Engineers operates the river basins in Georgia and getting the Governors of our neighboring States together to apportion the water among the States for the long term are critical issues that have to be addressed.
As resources get scarce, these things become more difficult to accomplish. Unfortunately, the people of Georgia cannot wait. They need immediate relief, and swift passage of this legislation will certainly help.
Mr. President, I yield the floor.