Georgia officials take over water test project
By RAY HENRY, Associated Press
Published 9:26 am, Wednesday, May 15, 2013
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ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia officials will lead a project testing whether water stored underground can be used to supplement drought-stricken waterways after the local agency managing the project pulled out, state officials said Wednesday.
The Georgia Environmental Finance Authority will start advertising Thursday for firms interested in designing and building a well system testing the water storage concept in southwest Georgia, authority spokesman Shane Hix said. Companies already involved in the project will have to reapply.
That decision came after the Southwest Georgia Regional Commission sent the state a letter Tuesday announcing it was pulling out of the project slated for the Chickasawhatchee Creek at the Elmodel Wildlife Management Area, roughly 50 miles north of Florida.
“As we have been working with you to further develop this project, it became obvious that the selected demonstration project is crucial to our region but also has importance outside our region,” Robert McDaniel, the commission’s executive director, wrote. “Upon reflection of this importance, we believe the demonstration project should proceed as a State of Georgia project rather than a SWGRC project.”
Gov. Nathan Deal’s administration had awarded the local commission roughly $5 million to test the concept so officials could decide whether it could be used more widely.
Supporters of the concept, called aquifer storage and recovery, say it could protect drought-threatened wildlife in the Flint River basin or, on a much larger scale, make sure Alabama and Florida get enough water to help resolve a long-running water dispute over metro Atlanta’s water consumption.
The project has opponents. Similar wells in Florida contaminated water with arsenic, a problem that project backers say can be fixed. Opponents of the project have also said that water from southwest Georgia should not be tapped for the benefit of metro Atlanta and that conserving water is cheaper than building storage systems. A bill to change Georgia’s law on water rights in ways favorable to the storage wells failed this year in the General Assembly.