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
Sen. Ross Tolleson           404-656-0081

Track Senate Bill 299
General Assembly Hearing Schedule
GA TU email to Senate Natural Resources HB 299.pdf
GA SB 299.pdf

GA Trout Unlimited Advocacy Fact Sheet
Cold Clean Fishable Water 12-08-2013.pdf

Kevin F. McGrath
Advocacy Chairman, Georgia Council of Trout Unlimited


said on Friday, January 31st, 2014

A Georgia Wildlife Federation Camo Coalition Action Alert has been issued for Senate Bill 299. Take Action by Monday, February 3rd. A hearing is scheduled for Tuesday at 1 pm in Room 450 of the Georgia Capitol. 

said on Friday, January 31st, 2014

According to Sen Steve Gooch Its not going to affect the trout buffers of 100', and the info I recived had omitted some of the info on this bill. That what he said in a email to me. So he plans on voteing yes I assume.

said on Friday, January 31st, 2014

Thanks for contacting Sen. Gooch -- Then the law does not need to be changed from making stream buffers' consideration optional from mandatory. Additionally, you can pollute a stream from outside the buffer zone. Georgia's trout stream buffers are 50'. The 100' buffer that Sen. Gooch refers to is for a 7 mile radius upstream of drinking water supplies on perenial streams. 

Don't be distracted, this is a pollution bill not a buffer bill. Buffers are but one method of managing water quality. SB 299 would allow a stream's water quality to be degraded below what is fit for human contact so long as it can be purified to drinking water standards somewhere down stream. That means no fishing, lower property values and higher costs for drinking water downstream. 

SB 299 is a bad plan and bad law. See related Georgia Wildlife Federation Camo Coalition Action Alert.

said on Friday, February 7th, 2014

Good news! Sen. Steve Gooch has agreed to offer a floor amendment that addresses the issues raised by GA TU members on the substitute bill passed out of Senate Natural Resources on Tuesday afternoon. The language about lowering water quality so long as it was recoverable to drinking water standards was struck in the committee.

·        Change 'may' to 'shall' with regard to buffer areas along streams and reservoirs, land development densities, and land use activities.

·        Stipulation that the watershed protection plan be approved by the department.

He has a concern that buffer standards could be interpreted as something more restrictive than current law or rules, and requested that language specifying what 'buffer areas' means be included.

GA TU offered changes that addressed these issues. Sen. Gooch accepted that language. The following language is being reviewed by legislative and EPD counsel. Sen. Gooch will offer a floor amendment as the bill's author. GA TU supports the change and looks forward to NGTO members joining us in the same. Here is the floor amendment:

(d) The minimum standards and procedures for watershed protection referred to in subsection (b) of this Code section shall specifically include, but shall not be limited to, buffer areas along streams and reservoirs, land development densities, and land use activities. . Local governments shall submit for approval by the department a watershed protection plan which shall include standards and procedures for watershed protection.  The department may adopt differing minimum standards and procedures of watershed protection based on the size of the watershed, the size or flow volume of the stream or reservoir, and whether or not the actual use of the municipal water supply is existing or proposed. Standards and procedures for buffer areas along streams and reservoirs adopted by the department shall be in accordance with the authority granted in subsection (b) of this Code section and Code 12-7-6.

Thank you to everyone that contacted Sen. Gooch, Senate Natural Resources, GA EPD and your Georgia Senator and Representative.

Kevin F. McGrath
Advocacy Chairman, Georgia Trout Unlimited

said on Saturday, February 15th, 2014

See our uodate Thank You for Keeping the Muck Out of Our Trout Streams. Send a thank you to Sen. Steve Gooch for agreeing to amend SB 299 | Watershed Protection Planning and responding to our requests. Say thanks here.

Kevin F. McGrath
Advocacy Chairman, Georgia Trout Unlimited


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