“Everybody needs to fight for what they think is right in their county,” said David Ashburn, general manager of the Walker County Water and Sewerage Authority.
Members of the 15-county Northwest Georgia Regional Water Resources Partnership vowed Wednesday to keep closer tabs on the data the state is providing to the Coosa-North Georgia Water Planning Council charged with creating the region’s part of the plan.
Jerry Jennings, a former Floyd County commissioner who chairs the voluntary partnership, said low-ball supply and demand numbers could be used to justify sending more water to the metro Atlanta district.
“The bottom line is: We need to be very vigilant, and we need to be as involved as we can be,” he said.
The Georgia Environmental Protection Division also has a panel of experts working on regional resource assessements — evaluations of existing water sources and their capacity to provide water and process wastewater.
“That’s going to be the next big fight,” said consultant Margaret Tanner of MACTEC Engineering. “You’ll have 30 days to comment on that, so you’ve got to be ready.”
The partnership hired MACTEC in 2008 to develop a watershed monitoring plan, assess water quality at 45 sites around the region and create a protection plan.
Tanner said a final round of sampling is scheduled for September. The two-years’ worth of data will be used to formulate the protection plan.
Mark Marlowe of Dalton Utilities said the partnership should provide the information, along with comments, to the Coosa-North Georgia Water Planning Council.
“This organization can be very helpful in getting attention and money for our region,” said Denise Wood of Mohawk Industries. “We owe it to our counties, our homes, our region, to be the squeaking wheel.”
Jennings and Ashburn are among the appointees to the council, which covers 18 counties across the top of the state. They said they will notify partnership members of upcoming meetings and ensure timely information is posted on the State Water Plan Web site.
As vice chair of the council, Ashburn attended an all-region meeting with EPD Director Carol Couch in Macon on Monday. He provided partnership members with a summary of the guidelines the councils will use to create their plans.
“Carol swore there is no (statewide) plan in a drawer, waiting to be whipped out, but all the regional plans will have to fit together,” Ashburn said.
Water plans are due from each region by June 30, 2011. After the state adopts a plan, only water projects that fit the plan will be eligible for permits, grants and loans.