The GreenRoom: December 2008

• Hiking on Cumberland Island – miles away from civilization and the auto traffic that haunts the rest of the state – is an experience critical to many a Georgian’s appreciation of our natural resources. Now a tradition that has spanned decades may soon be ruined by a government mandate created, ironically, by a Republican legislator. The park has released a draft of its plan for vehicle tours four years after Rep. Jack Kingston, who represents Georgia’s District 1, added a rider to a congressional funding bill that removed wilderness designation for large parts of the island and mandated vehicle tours (don’t Republicans oppose unfunded mandates?).

There was no public comment allowed for Kingston’s measure, and if no such comments are received for this plan, then environmental groups will likely push for legislation to restore the wilderness designation and stop the vehicle tours.

“We think wilderness is an important idea that is incompatible with running people in Jeeps through the area,” Will Berson, a policy analyst for the Georgia Conservancy, told USA Today. With budget cuts threatening park staffing throughout Georgia, it’s unclear if the state can even afford the tours – at least five a day, Congress has mandated – at this point. Kingston has aggressively pushed the idea in spite of local and visitor opposition. “I don’t think John Q. Taxpayer should have to walk 13 miles to see Plum Orchard,” he told USA Today.

• Nuclear power expansion at Plant Vogtle near Augusta will have to wait on more environmental impact studies, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission ruled in October. The Southern Company wants to add two more nuclear reactors, and would have to barge components for the expansion up the Savannah River, which would require dredging and the release of water from Lakes Hartwell and Thurmond. The commission did not factor in the dredging when it released its Early Site Permit in August, but the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board ruled that the impacts of dredging must now be considered. Approximately 116 miles of the Savannah River between Savannah and Augusta would have to be dredged to accommodate an estimated 100 barge shipments to Plant Vogtle.

• The Georgia Environmental Protection Department has admitted that it issued a permit for a wastewater treatment facility on a small marsh hammock in McIntosh County in error, and an administrative law judge has agreed to vacate the permit. Southeast Georgia Land and Development Company planned to develop 18 vacation homes on Union Island using an onsite sewage management system.

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