Ossoff, Warnock sponsor Chattahoochee River protection bill

Chattahoochee at Highway 78 bridge in article about Duke Energy settlement over the removal of coal ash in North CarolinaChattahoochee at Highway 78 bridge looking southward toward the nearby mouth of Nickajack Creek (photo by Larry Felton Johnson)

By Rebecca Gaunt

U.S. Senators Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock introduced legislation last week to protect and preserve the Chattahoochee River.

The Chattahoochee River Act authorizes $90 million for water quality improvement projects, restoring ecosystems, and protecting essential public works. Individual projects would receive up to $15 million.

The legislation gives the secretary of the Army two years, working with state and local governments, to create a comprehensive restoration plan. The federal government would cover 80% of project costs, with a non-federal match not to exceed 20% of project costs.

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According to the Georgia River Network, the Chattahoochee supplies 70% of metro Atlanta’s drinking water.

In the press release, Warnock said, “The health of our communities in Georgia is tied to the health of our environment. While the Chattahoochee River’s water quality has improved in recent years, there is still 1,000 miles of Chattahoochee watershed waterways that do not meet water-quality standards. Clean water is essential for healthy and thriving communities. So, I’m proud to work with Senator Ossoff to introduce legislation to invest in improving, protecting, and preserving the Chattahoochee River.”

The Chattahoochee River originates in Union County, Georgia and flows southwest from the Blue Ridge Mountains, through the Atlanta metro area, down to Lake Seminole at the Georgia-Florida border. Over its 434-mile course, it is controlled by 13 dams that generate hydropower and electricity.

Chattahoochee Riverkeeper is excited to support the Chattahoochee River Act,” said Jason Ulseth, the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper. “Senator Ossoff’s and Warnock’s Chattahoochee River Program will encourage cooperation between federal and state agencies and stakeholders. Chattahoochee Riverkeeper looks forward to working alongside Senators Ossoff and Warnock to protect and restore a river millions of people depend on.”

From the press release:

The river is also a key source of water for farmers and agriculture, and it’s a key source of power through hydroelectric dams. As of 2013, the state of Georgia has approved more than 6,700 water withdrawal permits for agricultural use.

In 2019, the National Park Service reported visitors to the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area added more than $200 million to the local economy, supporting over 2,000 local jobs.

According to Chattahoochee RiverKeeper, more than 1,000 miles of waterway within the Chattahoochee watershed do not meet water quality standards, creating potential health risks to both humans and wildlife.

According to the Georgia River Network, the Chattahoochee is home to 24 species of freshwater aquatic turtles, about 37 species of salamanders and sirens, about 30 species of frogs and toads, the American alligator, and nine threatened or endangered plant species.

Click here to read the Chattahoochee River Act.

Rebecca Gaunt earned a degree in journalism from the University of Georgia and a master’s degree in education from Oglethorpe University. After teaching elementary school for several years, she returned to writing. She lives in Marietta with her husband, son, two cats, and a dog. In her spare time, she loves to read, binge Netflix and travel.

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