Watershed protection everyone’s job

Tue, 11/08/2005 - 6:47pm
By: The Citizen


As the proposed stormwater plans and programs are brought closer to reality for communities across Georgia, a few questions have come up. It has been asked why we need to worry about our watersheds when some agency is taking care of them - aren’t they?

And: why implement such programs when they intrude on their rights; after all, what happens on private property is the individual’s concern alone, isn’t it?

My answer, and one that I believe is appropriate to both questions is: we all have a responsibility for what takes place in our watershed and the stormwater programs will be a significant step toward that protection, and we should be the ones who take charge of caring for the world around us and not some outside government agency.

The facts are that very little of what we do on our property, in the way of changes to the physical conditions of our homes and land, impacts only our own little piece of the world.

Air and water move quickly unto other little pieces of the world and often that means what we do impacts our neighbors.

Even if you are not a property owner, you still have an impact on the watershed and also benefit from a healthy environment around you.

It doesn’t make any difference where you live, you are impacted by your neighbors and you have an impact on them. There is virtually no place left on this earth where what we, as people, have not had an impact.

I was invited to be a member of the citizen stormwater plan task force for the cities of Fayetteville and Peachtree City. Both groups were made up of individuals with a wide range of interests and expertise who contributed a great deal of knowledge and tried to ensure that the resultant stormwater program would be both beneficial and fair.

In both Fayetteville and Peachtree City, an extensive amount of work was involved in identifying both public and private property problem areas as well as an exhaustive analysis of how to accomplish meaningful improvements.

I am not a resident of either Fayetteville or Peachtree City, but participated to help establish the programs while continuing to protect our existing natural resources. It is my belief that both of these programs will meet their objectives and do so in an environmentally safe manner.

The local stormwater programs are meant to address and answer some of those impacts as well as helping educate the rest on how to reduce further negative impacts. The benefits to each of us will be significant for a variety of reasons.

Unfortunately, to accomplish many of those programs, there is going to be a cost and we will each share some of that cost. It is only right that this be so.

I want to address costs a bit further. This has been a point of contention, voiced in public meetings and in a few news articles.

The citizen task forces spent a great deal of time in our meetings discussing how best to fund the implementation of the stormwater programs. There are several options, but one that worried many of us was using general taxes as the method of funding.

Federal, state, county and city governments have long, and in my opinion sad, histories of raising taxes for one purpose only to have the resultant tax base raided by a later governing body for some “important” project.

The task forces believed that a fund, raised apart and away from the general tax basis, is necessary and under the proposed programs quite fair to every affected citizen.

For example, if the program is managed as a utility, the dedicated funding will ensure that our watersheds receive the attention without political interference. It may still feel like a tax when you pay your bill, but the important feature is that what you pay will go only to protect our watersheds.

This is not an insignificant undertaking, but I believe that when you look closely at what is being proposed, you will understand the need, you will understand the values and you will see the reasons for the approaches that are being proposed.

Dennis Chase, now retired, was a fish and wildlife biologist with the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service for more than 26 years. Since retiring, he has worked as a consultant for Fayette County on environmental concerns, is a volunteer with the Southern Conservation Trust Inc., and has published numerous newspaper columns.

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