GreenRoom: February 2008

• “Stop I-3,” a civic group opposing a proposed highway through the North Georgia Mountains, has suggested letting the interstate be built after all – through South Carolina. The Savannah Morning News reports that Interstate 3, named in honor of the 3rd Infantry Division based at Fort Stewart, could go through Augusta north to Greenville, SC, where it could link to I-26 and then to I-40 over to Knoxville, according to Stop I-3’s concept. This would seem a much more logical step than blasting through the North Georgia mountains for another freeway.

The News reports that U.S. Rep. Paul Broun, R-Athens, has given tentative support to broadening the feasibility study to include the new plan. Originally proposed by former U.S. Rep. Max Burns, I-3 would have carved a route wider than three football fields through the north Georgia mountains. In December, the National Park Service officially opposed the existing plan.

• The state also announced that it would spend $19 million for a “Go Fish Georgia Center” in Houston County. The center isn’t on the nearby Ocmulgee River, nor is it anywhere close to Lakes Blackshear, Lanier or Allatoona. Instead, it’s right off Interstate 75, and is expected to bring 200,000 visitors annually to Gov. Sonny Perdue’s home county.

The 30,000-square-foot facility would include a visitors’ center and a hatchery aimed at promoting fishing in Georgia, part of the governor’s grandiose Go Fish plan to make Georgia’s state reservoirs and 15 lakes and rivers more attractive to major bass tournaments. The plan will go further ($22 million worth) to create 10 “mega-ramp” boat ramps, including one in Columbia County, which received a Go Fish grant to resurrect Wildwood Park, a six-lane ramp closed early last year because of low water levels.

While the state estimates the current economic impact of fishing in Georgia at some $1.5 billion, the timing of this initiative, drought-wise, couldn’t be worse. And the location of the off-river center in Perry, along with a land purchase by the governor near Houston County’s Oaky Woods (a former popular hunting ground sold by foresters to residential developers after the state declined to purchase it with conservation funds, angering hunters) a few years ago, indicate questionable priorities.

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