A year later, revised Flint River bill passes with little opposition

After more than 12 months of fighting among Republicans and Democrats, environmentalists and property rights activists, a bill designed to address the drawing of water from the Flint River basin appears to be near final approval in the General Assembly.

But the version of Senate Bill 213 that the House overwhelmingly approved Wednesday is a far cry from the wide-reaching bill that would have allowed the state to push more water to Florida in an effort to end a long-running feud with the Sunshine State.

The bill passed the House 164-3, but the Senate must now approve the most recent changes.

As introduced, the legislation would have given the state new powers to restrict farmers from drawing water from the Flint River basin during dry spells. Environmental groups saw it as a threat to long-standing Georgia water law and an intrusion of private property rights. They also feared the legislation’s true intent was to allow the construction of a new network of pumps that could store water in underground aquifers and siphon downstream during drought.

As passed by the House, however, SB 213 would affect only four streams in southwest Georgia where water is occasionally added to protect threatened wildlife. The updated bill would allow government to prevent individuals from siphoning water from those streams if water was added to protect aquatic life.

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Critics of the original bill hailed the compromise.

The amended bill “actually meets what they said the stated purpose of the bill was,” said Rep. Debbie Buckner, D-Junction City.

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