The GreenRoom: November 2008

• Boat propellers are believed to have killed four endangered manatees that washed up on the coast of Savannah near Talmadge Bridge in September. A U.S. Geological Survey found that boat collisions are the top long-term threat to manatees; boats killed 73 of the sea cows in 2007 and 60 so far this year, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conser-vation Commission. Georgia, where manatees migrate north from April through October, averages one manatee death a year; it is believed all four manatees were killed by the same boat. Georgia Ports Authority spokesman Robert Morris called the deaths a “tragic event,” and told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution the GPA would work more closely with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources to alert river traffic to manatee sightings.

• Those wishing to harvest underwater trees from their property must now go through the Clean Water Act permit process, according to a ruling by Senior U.S. District Judge B. Avant Edenfield. This applies only to trees that have grown in or along a river or waterway and includes rules to avoid pollution. The ruling came in response to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ common practice of harvesting underwater lumber. The Corps had granted lake owners permission to clear cut 60 acres for more open water. Riverkeepers claimed harvesting is different from farming, with inadequate provisions for replacing the bottomland forest, which would have allowed for waiving Clean Water Act requirements.

• At its annual Democracy Awards Dinner, Common Cause Georgia honored the groups fighting Cumberland Harbour, a massive project near Cumberland Island off the coast of St. Marys. The Southern Environmental Law Center received kudos for “championing rigorous enforcement of Georgia’s coastal laws.” Cumberland Harbour is close to Cumberland Island, Georgia’s last virgin coast, and is believed to threaten marshlands and marine life in the area.

• Atlanta BeltLine Inc. has partnered with NE Beltline LLC to acquire 20 percent of the right of way needed to create the 22-mile loop of parks, trails and transit encircling Atlanta. NE Beltline’s five-mile section is considered the most valuable real estate in the Beltline’s path.

The joint venture secures land purchased by Gwinnett Developer Wayne Mason, who dropped his plans when the city refused to let him erect high rises over Piedmont Park, then put Atlanta on the hook for a huge sum with interest no public entity could possibly afford.

Together with Buckhead attorney John Woodham, who has successfully challenged public schools’ optional participation in Tax Allocation Districts, Mason may yet ruin this brilliant effort to solve Atlanta’s transportation crisis. Beltline officials hope to arrange a financing strategy for the property.

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