Rob writes a weekly outdoors column and covers energy, environmental and nuclear issues (and lots of other topics) for the metro section. He has been an avid angler and hunter ever since he realized he had neither the aptitude nor the desire to take up golf. He has been a full-time journalist for 28 years, including 11 years as bureau chief in Columbia County. Before joining The Chronicle, he worked at newspapers in Columbia, S.C., and West Palm Beach, Fla. He has edited or authored three reference books on antique fishing tackle; and his freelance work has appeared in Field & Stream, Gray’s Sporting Journal and Georgia Outdoor News. He lives in Evans.
Posted February 21, 2011 10:53 am - Updated February 21, 2011 10:57 am

Gov. Nathan Deal: more Q&As on east Georgia water policy

Our Sunday story package on the Savannah River focused largely on the relationship between Georgia and South Carolina and how those states will jointly manage the 350-mile river and its resources.


As part of our reporting for that piece, we sent Gov. Nathan Deal a series of questions - and received detailed responses through his press secretary, Stephanie Mayfield. 


We used some of those responses in our recent story, but since we didn't have room for everything,  I am copying below our questions and the answers we received.


The discussion mentioned "TMDLs" which is an acronym for "total maximum daily load," a term Georgians will become more familiar with in coming years. In the way of background, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency concluded some years ago that water in Savannah Harbor is deficient in dissolved oxygen.


The agency's proposed remedy was to limit oxygen-depleting discharges such as municipal and industrial wastewater in the Augusta area, more than 200 miles upstream.


The plan requires development of "total maximum daily loads" for oxygen demanding pollutants from wastewater, and the recommended TMDL was  - at least on paper - just a tiny fraction above zero.


In theory, the EPA's edict of near-zero would force cities to shut down all wastewater programs, but such a rule was deemed unenforceable. However, because the river is technically in violation of the federal Clean Water Act, all wastewater permitting matters are on hold until a new oxygen standard is adopted.


The low oxygen issue has also become a factor in the proposed expansion of Savannah Harbor, where mitigation measures such as oxygen-injecting "bubblers" have been proposed. Involved in the discussions, in addition to Georgia and the EPA, are officials with South Carolina's Department of Health & Environmental Control.


Here are the questions and answers from Gov. Deal's office, with responses in bold type:


1. Back in 2005, the governors of both South Carolina and Georgia each

created - by their own respective executive orders - a Governor's

Committee on the Savannah River. Each group's mission was to meet and

communicate with counterparts across the river. As Georgia's new

governor, do you plan to keep that committee intact and active? Are

there any issues in particular you believe will need more attention in

the coming year?


A consensus memorandum prepared by the Savannah River Committees of Georgia and South Carolina dated January 7, 2011 lists three major issues:

  • Salt water intrusion into the fresh water aquifer under Beaufort and Hilton Head, South Carolina.
  • Impending Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) limits on wastewater discharges.
  • Creating a framework for allocation and management of the water resources of the Savannah River Basin.

The memo concludes with the statement: "We look forward to serving Governor-elect Deal and Governor-elect Haley in creating continued progress on the shared Savannah River basin and presenting final recommendations and solutions."



2. Regarding Savannah Harbor and its deepening proposal, how do you think

this project affects relations between South Carolina and Georgia, in

terms of sharing water resources in the Savannah River? How important is

the harbor project to all of Georgia?


It is Georgia's hope that the Savannah Harbor project will have no impact on our relationship with South Carolina regarding shared water resources in the Savannah River.  We have worked very well with South Carolina on other high profile issues such as saltwater intrusion, the Savannah Harbor TMDL, the Savannah River Comprehensive Study and other water availability issues. Both states have a good understanding of the river and harbor and we hope to maintain that productive relationship.



3. It has long been known that Georgia and its cities and industries now

use approximately 95 percent of the Savannah River's waste assimilation

capacity, leaving barely 5 percent to South Carolina. Do authorities in

Georgia have any solutions for making such allocations more equitable?


A June 2010 US EPA TMDL  was issued which established some capacity in the river and harbor. At that time, it was decided by GA, SC, EPA and the dischargers that the dischargers from both sides of the river would form a stakeholder group to develop a strategy for allocating the loading established in the June 2010 TMDL.  Work has been underway for several months now by this stakeholder group.  Ultimately, GA, SC and EPA will need to review and approve an allocation strategy which will then be placed in a final TMDL this summer.


4. Predictably, this is perhaps the most important question for folks on

this side of the state. During the campaign, there were assertions you

would support interbasin transfers and later you clarified you would

not, under any circumstance, consider any plan to move water from the

Savannah River Basin to any of the metro Atlanta counties. If the Lake

Lanier situation cannot be resolved favorably for Atlanta, is there any

scenario where obtaining water from the Savannah River Basin could be



Absolutely not