Southeastern Natural Sciences Academy vies for Ogeechee River research funds

Augusta-based South­eastern Natural Sciences Academy hopes to convince state regulators it can do the best job monitoring water quality in the polluted Ogeechee River.

Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division proposed a consent order last fall in which a Screven County industry, King America Finishing, would finance $1 million in “supplemental environmental projects” to resolve violations discovered after 38,000 fish died along 70 miles of the river in May 2011.

The centerpiece of that proposal involves paying Georgia Southern Univer­sity $766,391 to study the river’s ecology and monitor its water quality.

According to the school’s proposal, those studies would also be expanded to include analysis of the river’s flood plain by faculty from the Department of Geology and Geography.

The academy, which specializes in river ecology and urban effects on water quality, proposed a $764,750 study that was to include the purchase and installation of six continuous monitoring stations that would provide temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen levels and other data. That study was not chosen.

State regulators are seeking comments on the proposed consent order – and have scheduled a public hearing at 7 p.m. March 5 at Effingham County High School in Springfield, Ga., to discuss the order, according to a notice from the agency.

Braye Boardman, a board member at the academy, and Georgia Conservancy President Pierre Howard have both submitted comments opposing the choice of Georgia Southern for the project and suggested using Southeastern Natural Sciences Academy instead.

“I realize that there are multiple potential projects that are being considered for funding using the King America fine,” Boardman wrote. “However, I would argue as a taxpayer that only projects that directly impact the long term health of the resource (in this case the Ogeechee River) be considered.”

The academy’s proposal, he argued, is superior to Georgia Southern’s proposal and would provide more benefits to the Ogeechee River.

“The Academy has a proven track record with programs of this type,” he wrote.

Howard’s letter, sent to EPD Director Jud Turner, also lobbied for the academy’s proposal.

“It is our opinion that the proposal by the Academy would have a more direct and immediate positive effect on ensuring that the health of the Ogeechee River is known at all times by the agency and by the public,” Howard’s letter said.

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ABOUT THE ACADEMY

WHAT: Southeastern National Sciences Academy

FOUNDED: 1996

WHERE: Lock and Dam Road, Augusta

PRIMARY MISSIONS: education, research, outreach

FACILITIES: research campus, Phinizy Swamp Nature Park

RESEARCH SPECIALTIES: water quality, wetlands restoration, environmental impacts to urban river

EDUCATION AMENITIES: tours, lectures, field trips, courses

MORE INFORMATION: www.naturalsciencesacademy.org

South­eastern Natural Sciences Academy's Web site

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