The Greenroom: December 2007
• Georgia, Florida and Alabama agreed in November to work out a unilateral water plan by mid-February. The states’ fight over water resources has been given plenty of ink in Georgia Trend over its 17-year history, but it was the Army Corps of Engineers who brought things to a head by giving priority to mussels and power plants in Florida over Atlanta residents, after repeated warnings that Georgians must conserve more water. All three governors seemed confident they could resolve their differences, concerning both Lake Allatoona and Lake Lanier, by the deadline; ideally, the new agreement should also save millions if not billions in legal fees.
This isn’t the first time the feds have proven willing to intervene in Georgia’s affairs on behalf of the environment. In 1998, Atlanta’s runaway traffic and air pollution got the attention of national leaders who required Georgia to lower its ozone levels. Funding for federal roads resumed only when the 13-county region was brought into compliance with the Clean Air Act. The Wall Street Journal ran an article with the headline, “Is Gridlocked Atlanta Becoming the Southern Version of Los Angeles?” (June 18, 1998).
• While state leaders are seriously considering a “big enchilada” transportation plan with billions to be spent on more roads and highways that threaten to dramatically undo those efforts to bring the region’s air quality back into federal standards, the Atlanta Beltline offers a glimmer of hope for oxygen-using residents and visitors, particularly young and elderly, throughout the region.
In late October, volunteers began clearing debris from Beltline trails in West End, and developer Wayne Mason finalized the sale of the northeast portion of the Northeast corridor of the Beltline for $66 million, giving the city 20 percent of the right of way to develop the massive project. With more than $1.5 billion in new investment and 60 new projects under way within its Tax Allocation District, the Beltline, “the preeminent economic redevelopment project in the United States,” according to Beltline Partnership Chairman Ray Weeks, will encircle the city with transit, trails, parks and mixed-use, mixed-income development. An $8-million gift from the Woodruff Foundation announced last month will go towards the Beltline’s North Avenue Park.
To prevent further federal meddling in Georgia affairs, projects like the Beltline need the support of our state leaders – not a multibillion dollar road lobby giveaway that would make Atlanta less walkable than ever.