Setting the Stage for Change
Within the past five years, drought devastated our local landscape and then it came to a dramatic close, when rains fell in abundance and flood waters swept through the region. Recurring periods of drought and flood may become more frequent as our climate continues to change. Issues of water quantity and quality have become familiar front-page news, but even in times of normal rainfall, our region struggles to conserve and manage the water we have. There is great urgency to address the many challenges we face: How will we allocate our water supply when we have millions more people living in the ACF Basin in the years to come? What will happen when we have the next severe drought? How can we plan now to guarantee a sustainable future? Hoping to answer these questions – and to find common ground – the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint Stakeholders began as a small group of concerned community leaders meeting informally in 2008. By the time ACFS incorporated a year later, it had grown to involve individuals and interest groups from all four of the watershed’s sub-basins: (1) Upper Chattahoochee Defined as the waters entering the ACF Basin north of the USGS Franklin Gage at Franklin, Georgia, this sub-basin includes Lake Lanier and much of the greater Atlanta metropolitan area. In addition to the homeowners and boaters interested in maintaining water levels on Lake Lanier, thousands of residents enjoy recreational opportunities in the Chattahoochee National Recreation Area. Sub-basin residents also require substantial water supply needs. Gwinnett County is particularly impacted because Lake Lanier is the only source of drinking water for a countywide population of 800,000. (2) Middle and Lower Chattahoochee Extending south of the Franklin Gage to the confluence of the Chattahoochee and Flint rivers at the Jim Woodruff Lock and Dam (JWLD), this sub-basin is distinguished by a variety of interests including growing municipalities, agribusiness, waste water management facilities, power plants, industrial manufacturers, and historically and culturally significant river towns. Four of the five major ACFS reservoirs managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lie within this sub-basin and are important for power supply, recreation, flood control and navigation interests. 4 (3) Apalachicola South of the JWLD, the Apalachicola River drains into the Apalachicola Bay creating the river system and estuary with the highest biodiversity of any in North America – one of thirty places in the world designated by UNESCO as a “Man in the Biosphere Reserve.” International conservation organizations have also designated it as a “Biological Hotspot” and “Biogem” for its global ecological importance. In addition to preserving this unique environment, sub-basin representatives are interested in maintaining a vibrant seafood industry that has supported communities for generations. (4) Flint Starting in East Point, Georgia, the Flint River springs up from under the runways of Hartsfield-Jackson Airport and through the developed suburbs south of Atlanta before it winds through the rural countryside of central and southern Georgia. It flows naturally unimpeded until it reaches the Lake Blackshear reservoir near Warwick and Lake Worth below Lake Blackshear, then on to Lake Seminole near Bainbridge where it merges with the Chattahoochee to form the Apalachicola. This sub-basin is characterized by the Southeast’s most productive agricultural land, supporting farming operations that contribute $50 billion to the gross national economy.