Unicoi Outfitters is north Georgia's premier guide service and fly fishing outfitter, located on the Chattahoochee River near alpine Helen. Look for fishing reports, gear and book reviews, and general musings here from our staff and guides.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Don't Muck Up My Trout Stream

Flexibility. That’s what they’re calling it these days in the General Assembly. Giving someone the option to muck up and contaminate a stream or making it possible to pollute a stream to the point where it is a health hazard to fish, so long as someone else can return it to drinking water, somewhere downstream, at their expense, is passed off as watershed planning by Dahlonega, GA Senator Steve Gooch. Some plan.
Planning. Senate Bill 299’s title sounds positive and proactive - Natural Resources; provide flexibility for establishing watershed protection standards. What it does is lower the protection of streams and rivers by making the most effective measures planners are now required to use optional in the future. Consideration of stream buffers, land development densities and land use activities all become optional considerations with Sen. Gooch’s plan. Some plan.
Antidegradation. Big word. Big impact. The bill puts into law a process that conflicts with federal clean water standards. Antidegradation rules allow for changes in a stream’s and surrounding lands’ activities if the existing uses – fishing; recreation; drinking water; reproduction of fish, wildlife and shellfish; wild river; scenic river and coastal fishing, of the stream are maintained. In the case of streams where fish and wildlife reproduce, water quality can be lowered only if there is an important social or economic reason. With important national resources - national parks and wild and scenic areas such as the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area and Chattooga River, water quality is to be maintained and protected. With Sen. Gooch’s plan, streams can be polluted if the water can be resuscitated back to drinking water standards. Some plan.
Rights. Some say that stream buffers are government seizure of private property by denying property owners use of their land. Buffer laws limit use of land but do not take it away from property owners. They protect a public resource - water, by limiting roads, buildings, clearing vegetation, altering stream banks, installing septic tanks… within 50’ of a trout stream, 25’ of a warm water stream and 150’, for a radius of 7 miles upstream, of a drinking water source. 25 to 150 feet! Variances are issued in cases where property owners need to invade a buffer area for a good reason. If streams get polluted, are unable to be used for fishing and recreation, and become more expense to treat to drinking water standards, then downstream property values decline, Georgians can’t use streams for fishing and recreation, and local governments and taxpayers pay more for drinking water. Sen. Gooch’s plan would make consideration of downstream property owners’ and citizens’ rights optional when developing a watershed protection plan. Some plan.
Your Plan. Senate Bill 299 is likely to have a hearing at 1 pm on Tuesday, February 4th at the Capitol. Before noon on Tuesday, call or email your State Senator; Sen. Steve Gooch; and Senate Natural Resources Chairman – Sen. Ross Tolleson. You can leave a voicemail over the weekend. If you can, come to the Senate Natural Resources Committee hearing on Tuesday. Tell them “Don’t Muck Up My Trout Stream” and to “VOTE NO on Senate Bill 299”. Now that’s a plan.
Find your State Senator   Click Here for Project Vote Smart
Sen. Steve Gooch             404-656-9221     steve.gooch@senate.ga.gov
Sen. Ross Tolleson           404-656-0081     ross.tolleson@sentae.ga.gov
GA Trout Unlimited Advocacy Fact Sheet
Cold Clean Fishable Water 12-08-2013.pdf
Kevin F. McGrath
Advocacy Chairman, Georgia Council of Trout Unlimited

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