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Georgia editorial roundup

July 12, 2018

Recent editorials from Georgia newspapers:

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July 9

The Brunswick News advocates for keeping plastic out of the ocean:

It is staggering to look at the statistics studies have revealed about plastic waste in the oceans.

A 2015 study headed by a University of Georgia professor estimated that of 275 metric tons of plastic waste generated in 192 coastal countries in 2010, 4.8 to 12.7 million metric tons entered the ocean. Whether the true number is on the low or high end of that doesn’t really matter — either way it is too much.

The study also estimated 6,350-245,000 metric tons of plastic float on the ocean surface. Much of that can be found in massive floating islands where ocean currents converge. Some of those islands are estimated to be the size of entire states — big ones like Texas.

That is why the message of Katy Smith, water quality program manager with UGA’s Marine Extension and Sea Grant, and Keep Golden Isles Beautiful Director Lea King-Badyna is so important. Properly dispose of and recycle your trash, especially your plastics and styrofoam, so it doesn’t wind up in our oceans and waterways.

It is a very simple request and one that can make a big difference not only in how much trash is entering our oceans, but also what our own community looks like. No one wants to live in a place where litter and trash are strewn about the sides of roads, in our case, in creeks that wind their way through vast marshes. It is not an attractive look, especially considering our local reliance on tourism.

When trash like styrofoam cups, water bottles and cigarette butts — some of the most common trash found during marsh cleanups — make it into the marshes, they can easily find their way out into the ocean and to our beaches or farther out.

The longer plastics float, the more they breakdown into smaller pieces, creating a much harder-to-see problem — microplastics.

Consider Cumberland Island National Seashore, widely considered one of the more natural and mostly untouched beaches along our coast open to people. A National Park Service marine debris mapping project found 198 pieces of microplastics per kilogram of sand on Cumberland Island. That basically means every handful of sand you pick up on Cumberland contains at least some plastic.

At this point, we may not be a be able to reverse the trend completely, but we can all do our own small part to minimize plastic’s impact on our oceans by simply properly disposing of our trash and taking steps to produce less of it.

Online: https://thebrunswicknews.com/

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July 8

The Marietta Daily Journal says they believe Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle is the best equipped candidate to challenge Democratic nominee Stacey Abrams in November’s general election:

Republicans in Cobb and across the state have some critical decisions to make in the July 24 runoff, which will decide who will challenge an increasingly charged left this fall in the offices of governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state and Cobb commissioner.

The MDJ endorsed Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle in the primary. As we said at the time, Gov. Nathan Deal, elected in the aftermath of the Great Recession, is leaving office with Georgia in a much better place than he found it. Cagle has sat at his right hand during this time and deserves credit for the success the Peach State is enjoying.

Cagle’s record of achievement has moved the needle, partnering with Deal to see the state grow by nearly 700,000 jobs and 40,000 businesses. Aggressive yet conservative, he led this year’s fight to cut state income tax rates.

Cagle’s signature initiative has been the development of a college and career academy network where students can graduate high school with an associate degree or industry certification and be ready with skills to enter the workforce. He’s helped launch 46 such academies across the state and pledged to give every student access to one by 2020. The result is students are employable upon graduation and gain access to well-paying jobs while business and industry can hire from a skilled Georgia workforce.

We believe Cagle is best equipped to challenge the Democratic nominee, Stacey Abrams, in November’s general election.

Online: https://www.mdjonline.com/

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July 7

The Gainesville Times on the ruling on a case that involves Florida’s lawsuit that seeks to cap Georgia’s water use in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River basin :

The other shoe has finally dropped in the water wars case and it didn’t fall the way Georgia hoped.

The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 vote, finally ruled on the case involving Florida’s lawsuit seeking to cap Georgia’s water use in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River basin. Though not a total surprise based on the line of questioning the justices took while hearing the case in early spring, it comes as a disappointment for those who hoped for a definitive ruling and the beginning of the end of a dispute nearly three decades in duration.

The court did not accept the findings of its appointed special master, Maine attorney Ralph Lancaster, who said Florida had not proven its case to limit Georgia’s water use. Instead the justices sent the case back to Lancaster for further review, indicating such a cap might be warranted. Florida wants Georgia’s use rolled back to 1992 levels, when the dispute first began and when the metro Atlanta population was just more than half what it is now.

Lancaster said in his ruling that harm to Florida’s shellfish industry in Apalachicola Bay couldn’t be linked solely to Georgia’s water use. The court disagreed, saying more research was needed.

“The special master applied too strict a standard in concluding that Florida failed to meet its initial burden of demonstrating that the court can eventually fashion an effective equitable decree,” Justice Stephen Breyer wrote in the majority opinion.

It’s not a loss for Georgia, just another delay toward a final solution. But after getting mostly favorable decisions in recent years, including Lancaster’s this year, state leaders rightly felt a clear victory was possible before the high court.

Instead, we get what sports fans have come to know as the “play is under review” delay. Just when you think your team has scored, the referees head to the replay machine while you await their decision in suspense.

In this case, that stall occurs while teams of lawyers on both sides have the meters running. Over the years, Georgia has spent more than $30 million on the case, Florida even more. And there are potentially more suits pending from Alabama, the third party in the dispute, against the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, which manages the water system and its reservoirs, including Lake Lanier. Private stakeholders pay for their own legal counsel, but the states are using taxpayer dollars — our money.

Ruling or no, this sumo match over liquid gold isn’t going to end anytime soon. The lawyers and politicians who may someday have the last word might now be in kindergarten.

Our area’s biggest stake in this feud is Lake Lanier, and the ability to keep it at full level for water use, tourism and the enjoyment of lakeside residents. Any limits on Georgia’s water use could affect the lake’s long-term viability and the region’s economic health.

Though there is plenty of water to go around during this rainy spring and summer, we know too well another drought may be around the corner. When that happens, the possibility of having water use capped for more than 6 million people in North Georgia and for farmers downriver who rely on irrigation is a sobering thought. And there’s no way of knowing how the court will eventually rule, or if and when Congress, where Georgia is outnumbered, may also get involved.

The court’s ruling was unique in that there were no ideological divides. The majority decision included both conservative and liberal justices, as did the dissent. That makes its future ruling even more unpredictable. And to deal in another wild card, Justice Anthony Kennedy, who sided with the majority, now is retiring. On which side will his replacement come down?

Knowing that all this, plus the weather, is beyond Georgia’s control, state leaders should manage what they can to mitigate any negative effects of the ruling. That starts with ramping up conservation efforts that have been in place since the cycle of severe droughts began more than a decade ago. Utilities and local public works officials have targeted infrastructure problems to fix leaks and waste while creating incentive programs for consumers to install water-saving devices. Those initiatives, plus ongoing water restrictions as needed, will at least help convince Lancaster and the courts that Georgia is doing its part to use water wisely.

It also means pursuing other water sources and storage options, which may mean fast-tracking new reservoir plans along the Chattahoochee and other river systems.

There’s just so much the state can do beyond severely limiting residential and commercial growth, which would hamstring the economy. Though we sympathize with the plight of Florida’s oyster fishermen to a point, their needs can’t be put ahead of a metro region of 6 million people that serves as an economic engine for the South and the nation. A sense of perspective is needed to avoid creating undue hardships for millions to benefit one industry.

The other variable within the state’s control is again trying to work out a deal outside of a courtroom to share water. Governors from each state engaged in such talks over the years, but those came to a stop in 2013 when Florida filed its lawsuit.

Both states will have new leaders come January, and it would be wise for new Gov. Cagle, Kemp or Abrams to reach out to Florida’s new chief executive. With each side likely to get less than half a loaf in a legal ruling, it would behoove them to see if any common ground is possible. Though Georgia may have more to lose than to gain from such an accord, it still could be more palatable than whatever choice the courts or lawmakers force upon us.

Everything else comes down to Lancaster, the courts and a legal fight that makes the O.J. Simpson trial look like an in-and-out for a speeding ticket. In the meantime, the case will drag on, the lawyers will keep running up huge tabs and Georgia’s future growth will hang in the balance, waiting for yet another shoe, and the raindrops, to fall.

Online: https://www.gainesvilletimes.com/

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