Monday, August 10, 2009

Water Wars Could Wound Some Candidates

Walter Jones of the Morris News Service has this article in The Insider Advantage

Sensing a political opportunity, Democrats running for governor are blaming one another for Georgia's water shortage.

For a couple of decades, Georgia has been at odds with its neighboring states over water, the kind of battles that have raged for years among western states.

At stake are not just brown lawns and empty swimming pools in Atlanta's tony subdivisions; it's the economic viability of the whole state, according to the Georgia Chamber of Commerce.

Indeed, the majority of Georgia's taxes are generated in metro Atlanta, one measure of economic dynamism.

Residents of The Other Georgia believe that their good fortune will rise if Atlanta stops hogging it all.

Not so, warns the Atlanta Regional Commission, the metro area's planning agency.

Companies that reject Atlanta for their new distribution center, factory or headquarters because a water shortage is capping development are going to move instead to Charlotte, N.C., or Memphis, Tenn.

While it's accepted wisdom that Georgians living outside of Atlanta rarely shed a tear over the woes of their capital city, Gov. Sonny Perdue is in league with the Atlanta business community in trying to rally the whole state. How he and the chamber crowd do may figure in the Democrats' primary.

If public opinion in places like Augusta, Savannah, Brunswick and Jessup isn't changed, then David Poythress will probably pick up few votes for blaming Roy Barnes and Thurbert Baker.

What's stirred up the issue and given it urgency was last month's federal court decision against the state gives Georgia three years to either convince Congress to help safeguard Atlanta's designs on Lake Lanier or find another source.

To illustrate the panic that's resulted, Perdue took the unusual step of inviting Poythress, Barnes, Baker and all the other candidates for governor from both parties for a briefing on the water war to date.

Three years is a blink of the eye in terms of government water projects. Simply building a pipeline could take that long if a withdrawal source were already in hand.

Winning in Congress may be an even longer shot considering the defeat last month of the state delegation's efforts to preserve the contract to build the F-22 fighter in Marietta. At least the plane had suppliers all across the country to help the lobbying. The water war has Georgia's 15-member delegation pitted against nine members from Alabama and 27 from Florida.

One of those three years will be up by the time Georgians vote, and Poythress is hoping the issue will have escalated enough by then to tar Barnes and Baker, who as governor and attorney general during part of the interstate skirmishes supposedly share some of the blame.

"I wonder if Baker and Barnes will come out from the shadows and let us know where they stand on new answers to our water problems," Poythress writes in an e-mail to supporters. "They have been very quiet on this issue, even though millions of Georgians could find themselves without household water if a solution is not agreed upon and implemented."

Baker is also taking arrows from another Democratic gubernatorial hopeful, DuBose Porter. The House minority leader, an attorney himself, criticized Baker as attorney general for agreeing to Perdue's legal strategy to fight the matter in court.

"Thurbert Baker, at Perdue's direction, has been signing checks to outside counsel for this litigation for long enough," Porter said in a press release. "We have already spent over $6 million in this losing cause."

Baker's campaign fired its own water cannon.

In a statement, Baker's campaign spokesman said, "the attorney general will defend the water rights of the people of Georgia, and he won't be lectured about it by the same politicians who did nothing about the water problem for years."

Incidentally, Porter is appealing to the residents outside of Atlanta when he suggests that the water districts enacted last year are stacked in favor of the state's biggest city. By adding that dig at Atlanta, the Dublin legislator is showing he doesn't expect statewide opinion to change in Atlanta's behalf.

The water war has as many currents as the Chattahoochee, and it's just as murky. What is clear is the issue will be used by the campaigns for the next year in whichever way they see an advantage.

This issue is bigger that some folks may think & it may play to the benefit to DuBose Porter. For along time rural georgia ( farmers in particular) have been concerned about it's water being gobbled up by metro atlanta. And if Porter can exploit that, he will benefit from this big time. Gov. Perdue was in Albany last week addressing the issue, but as Terrell County Democrat Bob Hanner, State Representative from Parrot puts it, it is a very difficult issue to solve & farmers are very concerned that their well-being will be affected if metro atlanta takes water from south georgia as well as rural georgians.

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