The Little Tennessee Watershed Association is one step closer to protecting the Little Tennessee River from the threat of losing its headwaters. On Feb. 22, the Rabun County Board of Commissioners unanimously passed a resolution in favor of regulating interbasin transfers.
With the declaration, the river stands a chance at remaining a water source for the communities through which it flows, rather than becoming a source of water for rapidly developing cities, such as Atlanta, LTWA executive director Jenny Sanders said on Tuesday.
“We’re pretty excited about it,” said Sanders. “Enforceable regulation of the Little Tennessee is in our [north Georgia, western North Carolina’s] best interest.” She noted that the LTWA has worked to pass such a resolution since 2008.
In essence, the resolution was drafted to encourage legislators to consider in earnest the rural communities that would be affected by interbasin water transfers, Sanders explained.
Regulation of water transfers, as supported by the resolution, would require larger municipalities to obtain a permit to use a limited amount of the waters in the interests of conservation, as recommended by the Georgia Comprehensive State Water Plan.
Sanders accredited the Macon County Board of Commissioners and the Town of Franklin Board of Aldermen for passing similar resolutions, as they now represent a “united front” of communities directly impacted by the Little Tennessee River.
It is now up to the Georgia state legislature to pass laws that would regulate interbasin water transfers. According to Sanders, Senate Bill 128 was just proposed and would impose water regulations. “Legislators will have to hold firm on this bill,” she said, citing the resolutions passed in Rabun and Macon counties.
More work must still be done to protect the Little Tennessee, said Sanders. “We support the idea of the establishment of a Little Tennessee River advisory committee,” she said. The creation of such a committee would further enforce and regulate water transfers in the tri-state area. Last year, former North Carolina Senator John Snow entered a bill in support of the committee, and that bill is currently in the House Appropriations Committee for further review.