Alabama deserves water

Published 9:42 am Monday, September 10, 2007

By Staff
As we know all too well, a large portion of the southeast United States is experiencing severe drought conditions. For much of the summer, the state of Alabama has endured record high temperatures and scarce rainfall.
As Congress returned to Washington, D.C. last week, the Alabama congressional delegation met with Secretary Pete Geren and Assistant Secretary John Paul Woodley, regarding the amount of water being withheld each day from the Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa River Basin for the state of Alabama.
The ACT River Basin is the primary source of water for much of the state of Alabama. Lake Allatoona and Carters Lake, two federal reservoirs built in Georgia with federal taxpayer money and operated by the United States Army Corps of Engineers, are at the headwaters of the ACT River Basin.
Let me be clear, just because these reservoirs are located in Georgia does not mean they belong to the state of Georgia - these reservoirs were constructed to benefit all those along the ACT River Basin.
The water released from these two lakes directly affects the amount of water downstream in Alabama's rivers and reservoirs. Congress first authorized the construction of Lake Allatoona in 1941 for the purposes of flood control and hydropower.
It is important to note, these reservoirs were not built by the federal government to provide water supply to local entities - whether in the state of Georgia or Alabama. Water supply was later added as an authorized purpose - only if that use did not interfere with the other primary uses of the federal reservoir.
However, the Corps of Engineers is allowing local water authorities in Georgia to withdraw unprecedented amounts of water from Lake Allatoona and Carters Lake to the detriment of downstream flows to Alabama.
At a time when Corps officials should be releasing more water to the ACT River Basin, they are in fact considering just the opposite. It is no surprise, therefore, that Alabama's reservoirs are at extremely low levels - adversely affecting our water supply, the quality of our water, industry that relies on the water, and navigation. The Corps of Engineers' 1993 draft manual, its guidelines for managing the water level of Lake Allatoona during drought conditions, specifically calls for a minimum amount of water to be released out of the lake each day. However, the Corps has failed to follow its own guidelines and has withheld over 18 billion gallons of water in Lake Allatoona - water that should have flown into Alabama.
As was reiterated in our meeting with Geren and Woodley last week - Alabama doesn't mind sharing in the pain as long as that pain is shared equally with our neighboring state. Lake Allatoona was constructed to assist both Alabama and Georgia in times of drought, and this is the time when water should be shared fairly between our states.
In addition to last week's meeting, Governor Riley, as well as the Alabama congressional delegation, has sent numerous letters to Secretaries Geren and Woodley requesting more equity in the sharing of this resource.
Until we receive a satisfactory response or explanation, we will not stop working to ensure Alabama receives all of the water Congress mandated we receive.
Emotional Week on
Capitol Hill
Last week, we witnessed the triumphant return of Senator Tim Johnson of South Dakota to the halls of Congress. Following a brain hemorrhage last December, Senator Johnson has endured months of rehabilitation. We were all glad to see the progress he has made and wish him the best as he continues to recover.
We also said a sad goodbye last week to two of our colleagues, U.S. Rep. Paul Gillmor of Ohio and former U.S. Rep. Jennifer Dunn of Washington. Each of these friends will be deeply missed, and I extend my deepest sympathies to their families and friends.
My staff and I work for you. If we can ever be of service, do not hesitate to call my office toll free at 1-800-288-8721 or visit my website http://bonner.house.gov.
For release the week of September 10, 2007. For more information, please contact Nancy Wall at (202)225-4931.