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Good, bad news on Georgia waterways
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Congratulations to the state Environmental Protection Division for dropping the hammer on King America Finishing by identifying the company as the source of the recent fish kills in the Ogeechee.
King’s illegal discharge of pollutants directly into the Ogeechee River was the cause of the fish kills. I hope the word “was” continues to apply for ever more.
I suppose a fine of $1 million is the 21st-century version of tar and feathering. I just hope the EPD can collect the money. It will be interesting to see if King decides to contest the findings in court.
As I understand it, the money is to be spent on improving and maintaining the health of the river. I guess that depends on into what fund the legislators decide to slip the money.
The Ogeechee is the second longest river in Georgia – I think around 250 miles. It is a vital asset to our state. The river deserves and needs, as do all of our rivers, our dedicated protection. We owe that to ourselves and to our descendants.
Kudos to the staff and volunteers – and particularly Dianna Wedincamp, program director – of the Ogeechee Riverkeeper organization for their hard work. All of our riverkeeper organizations are filled with unpaid, dedicated, unsung heroes.
The problem of underfunding still remains for the state Department of Natural Resources and its respective branches. It is impossible for that agency to handle the responsibilities they are given without a proper budget.
The Georgia Legislature in recent years apparently has not seen fit to apply the level of importance to the mission of the DNR as should have been done.
One of the DNR divisions is the Coastal Resources Division, based in Brunswick. They have a tremendous responsibility concentrated on the amazing coastal region of Georgia. They have well over 3,000 miles of shoreline to manage along our 100-mile coastline. There is a lot of work to be done. The importance of proper management of our marshlands, fisheries and other coastal resources is not to be underestimated.
I know, the state of Georgia is broke and we are going to have to limp along as best we can for the foreseeable future. But the attitude of the state Legislature toward issues of environmental concerns needs to be reviewed.
For the most part, I don’t think that body politic gets it. There are too many shortsighted and uninformed political decisions being made that directly affect the ability of our DNR to do its job. It’s too easy for them to use the term “wacko environmentalist” and eliminate the need for objective study of the issue.
To change the subject, has anyone noticed that we are well on our way to another marsh die-off? I don’t own an airplane so I can’t really tell the extent the die-off has reached at this point, but I can see a very measurable die-off along the banks of the Medway, Jerico and Tivoli rivers.
We had a die-off in 2002 that is still being studied. The marshes recovered on their own. There doesn’t seem to be any previous history of the marshes dying off in amounts equaling thousands of square yards. There are all sorts of theories about the die-off that can’t quite be proven, but drought is the most obvious culprit that started the ball rolling downhill.
When we say “drought,” we immediately think about direct rainfall. Equally important is the loss of runoff from higher ground because of the filling in of wetlands and the interruption of natural flow of freshwater into the salt marsh.
It’s a serious matter. The complexities of the salt marsh and its benefit to us is a subject that surpasses the space available here. The health of the salt marsh is a major concern for those who understand its importance and its vulnerability.
The rank and file of the DNR and the EPD and the CRD has that understanding. They just need to be allowed the political freedom to apply their knowledge in an honest fashion.
New subject again: Georgia has a dumb “one size fits all” regulation on the books regarding liveaboards on boats. You are not allowed to live aboard a boat for more than a total of 30 days during any one year. The ruling was an ill-thought-out amendment to the Coastal Marshlands Protection Act.
As I understand it, the regulation was put together years ago, in part, because of the accumulation of houseboats and such that had become blight and a health hazard in some of our rivers and lakes.
It just goes to show you that the majority of the lawmakers in Atlanta have no idea what the coast is all about.
A boat owner who wants to winter over in Georgia can’t do it. We are losing hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue. The big boys spend money on fuel, supplies, entertainment, maintenance and repairs.
Pleasure boating is a multibillion-dollar clean industry. Georgia is not taking advantage of an obvious and painless opportunity to considerably increase revenue and grow jobs.
Just think about the increased revenue for the tow companies dragging the visitors off the sandbars in the Ogeechee River. Just kidding!
Properly equipped and maintained marinas, operating under well-thought-out and enforced rules, easily can handle black water discharge and other environmental concerns surrounding large vessels.
Using a vessel as a summer home or a second home does not present a burden on the community involved. It brings in new revenue.
We are not talking about permanent residents on a vessel with kids in school and no property taxes. We are talking predominately about seasonal liveaboards who come to the coast from somewhere inland and use their boats as second vacation homes, or perhaps transients passing through on the ICW who decide to stay a couple of months.
You structure the rules to protect the environment and at the same time enable the boating community to function on a higher level of productivity. Then you fund the enforcement.
It’s not rocket science.
The archaic nature of the 30-day rule demonstrates the inclination of our legislators to take the easy path when they don’t understand the big picture and don’t want to take the time to educate themselves to the facts because it is not in their backyard. The state of Georgia needs to be done with “looking into it” and change the rules.

Hubbard is a charter boat captain and environmental activist living in Richmond Hill. He can be reached at

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