Win a relaxing weekend stay for two at Barnsley Gardens Resort
Home

The Natural Georgia Series: The Chattahoochee River

Design by Lenz Design, Decatur, Georgia.


Chattahoochee Riverkeeper Timeline

The Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper accomplishes its goals by actively using advocacy, education, research, communication, cooperation, monitoring and legal actions to protect and preserve the Chattahoochee and its watershed. The organization's work falls into three primary program areas-Community Outreach, Policy Initiatives and Legal Action.

1994

Community Outreach

Conducted a Soil Erosion Monitoring Project in north Fulton County's Big Creek watershed (completed in 1995 with conclusions presented to Ga. Water Resources Conference in 1997). Created the River Chat newsletter to communicate with Riverkeeper members and others interested in the river. Participated in the first Earth Jam Concert to raise river awareness.

Policy Initiatives

Worked to protect West Point Lake by promoting state water quality standards (adopted 1995). Advocated for a state nomination process for Outstand ing Natural Resource Waters to preserve pristine rivers, lakes and streams (adopted in 1995).

Legal Action

Secured state agreement to clean up contaminated groundwater leaking into the river from an underground gasoline tank. Cleanup completed in 1998 using $750,000 from a state trust fund. Created a system for Riverkeeper to monitor discharge permit compliance by 160 municipal and industrial facilities in the Upper Chattahoochee River Basin. 

1995

Community Outreach

Secured the donation of a boat with a 4-stroke jet motor and started regular river patrols. With Georgia Canoeing Association's assistance, began a canoe patrol on the river above Lake Lanier. Initiated the Riverkeeper HOTLINE which each year responds to more than 250 calls for assistance. Established Riverkeeper's Stream Monitoring Network in the Upper Chattahoochee River Basin and, in 1996, began to offer grants to schools with stream programs. (16 schools funded to date). Initiated town hall meetings through the Upper Chattahoochee River Basin, which have taken place in Sautee, LaGrange, Dahlonega, Cornelia, West Point, south Atlanta, Douglasville, Clarkesville and Cumming.

Policy Initiatives

Established the need for numeric instream turbidity (sediment) limits for Georgia waterways by helping secure strong recommendations from the state Board of Regents Scientific Panel on Soil Erosion. Initiated a Riverkeeper program to review, investigate and comment on stream buffer variance applications to the state in the Upper Chattahoochee River Basin. Helped defeat passage of state legislation that would weaken trout stream buffer laws. Supported additional federal funding for the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area.

Legal Action

Tackled Atlanta's decades-old pollution problems by organizing a coalition of downstream local governments, businesses and individuals, and filed suit against the city for violations of the federal Clean Water Act at its sewage facilities. Stopped industrial stormwater pollution from a riverfront asphalt recycling plant by negotiating a settlement agreement to clean up the site (completed in 1997 at a cost of $350,000; C.W. Matthews Contracting Co. received EPA's Community Partnership Award). Protected small streams by winning an administrative appeal to vacate a "general variance" issued by the state that would have eliminated buffer protections. Spotlighted problems with Fulton County's soil erosion control program by helping secure a state enforcement action against the county for violations of erosion laws at a recreation site. A state review of the entire county erosion program yielded substantial improvements.

1996

Community Outreach

Focused media attention on river problems, using American Rivers' 1996 designation of the Chattahoochee as one of the "Most Endangered" rivers in North America. Sponsored a hugely successful "Help the Hooch" cleanup at an industrial facility on the river. More than 20 tons of trash were removed by over 100 volunteers, including EPA Administrator Carol Browner. Involved more than 500 individuals in river cleanups. Initiated quarterly Brown Bag Lunch and Learn sessions on a variety of river topics. Benefited from the first annual Chinese New Year concert sponsored by 99X Radio Station and the first annual Jerry Jam Concert sponsored by Z93 Radio Station (both in their 4th year). Created the Proctor Creek Watershed Initiative to bring river programs to inner city school children within this south Atlanta sub-watershed. Received the Adopt-a-Stream Program of the Year Award. Launched the Riverkeeper Web Page! Created the quarterly newsletter, Stream Chat, and brochures for all stream monitoring groups to provide river resource information. Won the state Partnership Award at the 1996 Georgia Adopt-a-Stream Conference for Riverkeeper's Stream Monitoring Network and a Partnership Award for our Citizen Watershed Monitoring Project. Partnered with the "Kids Downstream" at a LaGrange school to conduct a stream monitoring program which was expanded to 5 additional schools in Troup County.

Policy Initiatives

Supported citizens' right to know about pollution in waterways by helping defeat a state audit privilege bill. Promoted state legislation to resolve the city of Atlanta's sewage problems and to re-direct Atlanta fine money to downstream water quality projects. Focused on the South Chattahoochee River Corridor by urging the Atlanta Regional Commission to expedite a water quality and land use study of this river section (Peachtree Creek to Franklin) and supporting state funding for the project (completed in 1998).As a member of a state advisory committee to develop regulations for the issuance of long-term (50-year) water withdrawal permits, secured the state's commitment to first evaluate an instream flow policy proposed by state fisheries biologists. Evaluated Gwinnett's proposal for a new wastewater treatment plant and secured the County's commitment to increase testing for priority pollutants in the plant's discharge, develop a stormwater manual for developers and impose new rates to reduce summer peaking demand.

Legal Action

Filed suit against the city of Cornelia and Fieldale Farms for polluting a tributary to the Chattahoochee River with high levels of ammonia and other substances. Urged regulatory agencies to take an enforcement action against Lockheed for its 1983 spill of a toxic chemical that contaminated groundwater and a nearby stream and also gained Lockheed's agreement to test for carcinogens. Reduced impacts of stormwater runoff and preserved natural buffers along the river and tributaries by securing re-zoning and permit conditions on a Forsyth County development upstream of a state trout hatchery. Involved Emory Law School students by initiating an Environmental Law Clinic to assist Riverkeeper in legal research as well as cases. Uncovered numerous sewage spills from city of Atlanta facilities that resulted in extensive media coverage and sparked a 5-month major federal/state investigation of Atlanta's sewage infrastructure in 1997. The subsequent enforcement action by the government agencies was merged with Riverkeeper's 1995 lawsuit.

1997

Community Outreach

Initiated Riverkeeper's Soque River Restoration Project in Habersham County to reconfigure and stabilize a 1500' section of stream to reduce soil erosion and improve aquatic habitat (completed in 1998). Published The Riverkeeper's Guide to the Chattahoochee, a first-ever recreational guidebook to the entire Chattahoochee-mountains to the sea. Working with a Habersham middle school, stabilized a degraded stream section in the Smithgall Woods Conservation area. Initiated a three-prong soil erosion control campaign with special educational materials and workshops targeted for developers, local officials and citizens. Provided resources to help establish three sub-watershed groups, representing headwaters (Soque River), urban (Nancy Creek) and suburban (Douglas County) areas within the Chattahoochee watershed. Working with local and state agencies, created and secured sponsorship for a series of Community Watershed Workshops which attracted 150 participants to share information, recruit volunteers, and obtain resources to initiate and/or sustain local watershed groups. Initiated a River Adventure Outings Program for members to explore the Upper Chattahoochee River Basin by foot and by canoe. Held our first annual River Revival party for Riverkeeper members.

Policy Initiatives

Served as the catalyst for a meeting which resulted in significant positive revisions to the tri-state "water wars" compact proposed by Georgia, Alabama and Florida to govern the allocation of water in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Fint River Basin. Promoted and secured sponsorship for a state Public Environmental Enforcement Act to enable citizens to file suit under state environmental laws. (Due to fierce opposition, the measure failed to pass.) Underscored the importance of full public disclosure of state enforcement and permitting actions by helping secure new regulations governing public notice. Moved the state towards a new instream flow policy to protect fisheries, water quality and recreation by participating in a task force that concluded a new state policy is needed and offered an interim recommendation. Challenged the state's proposed regulations on turbidity (sediment) as being unenforceable and lacking any scientific basis, and urged EPA to disapprove the proposed Georgia standard. Advocated and secured improvements to the state's River Basin Management Planning program, focusing on implementation of management strategies.

Legal Action

Appealed the state's issuance of weak discharge permits for Atlanta's sewage plants and secured high level state support to strengthen the permits by including specific construction deadlines. Notified Lockheed and the state of Riverkeeper's concerns with its violations of metal standards, compliance extensions and proposed site-specific permit limits (permit decision still pending). Cleaned up a Habersham tributary to the Chattahoochee by negotiating a settlement agreement with Fieldale Farms to improve its pretreatment process (completed 1997) and securing a consent order with the city of Cornelia for sewage plant upgrades (completed in 1999 for $4.1 million). Set a national precedent on standards to be met at combined sewer overflows (CSOs), when the federal court ruled in Riverkeeper's favor in our suit against the city of Atlanta. Helped reduce stormwater runoff from the Mall of Georgia through detailed conditions made a part of the state's variance approval.

1998

Community Outreach

Averaged 120 presentations annually to schools, neighborhoods and civic groups to raise awareness regarding threats to the Chattahoochee and opportunities for involvement. Initiated the Nancy Creek Watershed Education Initiative, which currently has 8 participating schools, and created the Utoy Creek Water Quality Education Program to bring river awareness to local students. Created a one-of-a-kind Internet database for stream monitors to input narrative and numeric information. Received a Special Recognition Award from the state. Continued our Community Watershed Workshop series with local and state agencies by conducting quarterly workshops that attracted 200 participants. Provided technical assistance and resources to assist the start-up and management of six sub-watershed groups in the Upper Chattahoochee River Basin. Stenciled over 400 stormdrains with the message "Do Not Dump-Drains to Stream", with the aid of two dozen citizen and school groups. Created Citizen Soil Watch Kits and Workshops to educate the public on ways to monitor construction sites and how to report potential violations. Conducted a two-year fish consumption survey on the Chattahoochee to support scientific studies to identify contaminant levels in fish tissue and potential public health threats. In partnership with neighborhood groups, stabilized and planted the riverbank at the Huntcliff Horse Stables and removed a massive pile of manure leaching into the river.

Policy Initiatives

Commended the DNR Board for passing a resolution insisting that the state take enforcement actions against polluters, specifically targeting the Chattahoochee River as an area of special concern. Contracted with Fulton County to evaluate its soil erosion control program and provide specific recommendations for improvement. Delayed the state's attempted approval of 50-year water withdrawal regulations which would have perpetuated Georgia's inadequate instream flow policy and secured the state's agreement to further review the recommendation of state biologists. Protected the South Chattahoochee River Corridor by helping pass legislation to extend the coverage of the state Metro River Protection Act an additional 34 miles downstream from Atlanta, thereby regulating development within 2000' of the River. Helped defeat passage of legislation that would weaken trout stream buffer laws. Advocated and helped secure strong local stream buffer ordinances in Coweta, South Fulton and Cobb Counties. Supported the Chattahoochee Land Protection Campaign led by Trust for Public Land and The Nature Conservancy to purchase a greenway along the river from Helen to Columbus.

Legal Action

Settled the Atlanta case with a consent order that requires strict deadlines, a $2.5 million fine and a $30 million supplemental environmental project that requires the removal of trash from urban streams and the purchase of greenways. Notified the top dozen wastewater permit violators in the Upper Chattahoochee River Basin of Riverkeeper's concerns and met with the state to develop enforcement strategies. A new state enforcement policy of "zero tolerance" for polluters in the Upper Chattahoochee River Basin was announced in early 1998. Focused on chronic violations at the Clarkesville sewage plant by advocating for a state enforcement action ($700,000 in upgrades to be completed in 1999). Reduced impacts from gold-mining operations in Lumpkin County on the Chestatee River by enforcing setback requirements. Improved the discharge from Tyson's chicken plant in Cumming by recommending phosphorus limits to protect Big Creek - Roswell's drinking water supply.

1999

Community Outreach

Reached a Riverkeeper membership goal of 2500 members. Partnered with the Chattahoochee Nature Center to take students on river floats by pontoon boat for educational programs. Secured a grant from Fulton County to conduct a year-long river education program for 10 classes in county schools. Developed a long-term strategic plan for a major expansion of Riverkeeper's environmental education programs. Secured a three-year funding commitment to initiate a Lake Lanier Patrol Program that includes a partnership with Gainesville College for water quality monitoring. Produced an educational video about Riverkeeper's community-based stream restoration project on the Soque River. Expanded our Stream Monitoring Network to include more than 100 local groups

Policy Initiatives

In an effort to unite conservation groups in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin, created the Tri-State Conservation Coalition to promote the protection of water quality, biodiversity and recreation in the context of the tri-state "water wars". To protect trout streams, served as an active member of the state Trout Stream Criteria Committee, charged with developing guidelines to list and de-list trout streams. Also served on the state's Trout Stream Legislative Advisory Committee to evaluate buffer protection regulations. Helped protect drinking water supplies by participating in the state's Technical and Citizens Advisory Committee to develop Georgia's Source Water Assessment Program and by sponsoring a citizens' conference on the Safe Drinking Water Act. Worked to protect Lake Lanier by helping to pass a resolution creating a committee to evaluate a Lanier watershed authority and serving as an appointed member of this legislative committee. Supported strong state regulations to protect streams from polluted runoff from concentrated animal feedlot operations (CAFOs). Advocated that federal (319) funds, passed on to the state, for projects to abate stormwater runoff pollution should be available to citizen groups, as well as government agencies.

Legal Action

Served as a lead advocate in supporting the state's issuance of a strong "general stormwater permit" for construction activities to combat sediment pollution from development sites. Challenged the Forsyth County Commissioners' decision to allow new sewer hookups to a failing treatment plant on Lake lanier. Lawsuit sparked the state Attorney General's office to pursue a consent decree with the permittee and search for a new owner to upgrade the plant. Protected two tributaries to the Chattahoochee by filing petitions against the state for its issuance of variances to develop within stream buffers, secured concessions from both developers to preserve the buffer. Secured protective conditions on a permit to Martin Marietta Aggregates for gravel dredging operations in a 100-mile section of the lower Chattahoochee. Notified the city of Palmetto of Riverkeeper's intent to sue for chronic sewage plant violations. Plant upgrades are scheduled for completion in 1999. Notified the state of potentially toxic substances leaching from a closed landfill in south Atlanta and discharging into a tributary to Proctor Creek. Pursuant to Riverkeeper's consent decree with Atlanta, the city completed a one-year professional cleanup of 37 miles of urban tributaries, removing 568 tons of debris, scrap metal and tires from these streams.

 


Read and add comments about this page


Go back to previous page. Go to Chattahoochee River contents page. Go to Sherpa Guides home.


[ Previous Topic | Next Topic ]