Georgia Senate backs watershed bill disliked by environmentalists

The Georgia Senate backed a measure Friday that environmentalists fear would loosen watershed protections statewide.

Senate Bill 299, sponsored by Sen. Frank Gooch, R-Dahlonega, would give local authorities some leeway in adopting watershed protection standards for buffer areas along streams and reservoirs. That includes where land is being developed, disturbed or built upon. Gooch, who called it a “private property rights” issue, said the bill does not change state minimums, including a 50-foot buffer for trout-fishing streams.

Environmental advocates, including the Georgia Water Coalition, warn the bill would weaken state control over the protection of streams and reservoirs that supply the state’s drinking water and recreation areas.

The bill passed on a 46-7 vote. It now goes to the House for consideration.

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