Ga. reservoirs bill headed to Governor’s desk

Atlanta Business Chronicle – by Dave Williams , Staff Writer

Date: Thursday, March 31, 2011, 12:17pm EDT

Dave Williams
Staff Writer

The Georgia General Assembly’s most significant water-policy legislation of 2011 is on its way to Gov. Nathan Deal.

The Georgia Senate voted unanimously Thursday to agree to House amendments to a reservoirs bill senators already had approved early this month. The Senate agreement gave the measure final passage, avoiding a risky return trip the House, which had approved the bill by a razor-thin margin on Wednesday.

The reservoirs legislation is a follow-up to last year’s passage of a water conservation bill, as Georgia’s political leaders seek to come to grips with a need for additional water resources that has become more critical since a 2009 federal court ruling threatening Lake Lanier’s future as a regional water supply.

The reservoirs bill would authorize local governments and water utilities to form public-private partnerships to finance and build reservoirs and other water-related improvements.

Public-private water projects could be financed completely on the local level, using local government funds and private investment, or receive state assistance through loans from the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority.

On Thursday, Sen. Ross Tolleson, R-Perry, chairman of the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee, told a colleague during a brief discussion that GEFA loans would not constitute an unconstitutional gratuity to private entities.

The most significant change the House made to the bill was to remove a requirement that disputes over contracts involving water projects be settled only through binding arbitration.

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