Calhoun on the dammed Chattahoochee

Calhoun on the dammed Chattahoochee

Near the foothills of the Appalachian mountain range lie the headwaters of the majestic Chattahoochee River, beginning from a spring on Coon Den Ridge in North Georgia. From there the river flows south, straight through the suburbs of Atlanta and down the Alabama-Georgia border, where it finishes its course through Northwest Florida and out into the Gulf of Mexico. Nearest us, the river can be reached by the BP on Highway 41 and just past Lovett on Paces Ferry Drive. However, the river is more than just scenery to most of Westminster.

Some of us have grown up taking our dogs for a nice game of fetch at Whitewater Creek, while others have headed up north to Jones Bridge or just down to Paces Mill for some casual fly fishing. If you have not done either of these things, then you may very well have “shot the hooch” in an inner tube or hiked over to “the rock” to try your hand at amateur cliff diving. Nevertheless, you may be interested to hear that the Chattahoochee River was named one of the top ten most endangered rivers in the United States less than a year ago. Two planning-stage reservoirs quite close to Atlanta have earned our river this haunting title.

With Atlanta’s continually growing population, our need for water increases magnificently annually. Furthermore, we live in an area of the country that undergoes severe droughts almost every year. With competition for access to the water with Alabama and Florida and the droughts in mind, the Georgia state government has proposed two new dams very near to the city in order to try and solve our water problems.

Already, 15 of the Chattahoochee’s 16 dams lie in Georgia. Most likely known to Atlantans is the Buford Dam: the dam that created Lake Lanier. Between the Buford Dam and us lies Morgan Falls Dam. Today, two pending permits exist: one in South Fulton and one in Hall County. These reservoirs could have catastrophic effects on the surrounding ecosystems, yet are backed by the governor of Georgia himself.

These reservoirs are being peddled to the public as “critical water supply projects,” yet further investigation yields troubling news. The dam projects appear to benefit private landowners much more than the average citizen. If approved and built, they will be created at the expense of clean water and healthy fisheries. The water and the fishing of the river we call our own will be negatively impacted on who knows how large of a scale. Atlanta’s fishermen already complain constantly on online message boards such as North Georgia Trout Online (NGTO) about the quality of fishing below Morgan Falls and the Buford Dam. Ever since the delayed harvest began in November and fish started becoming regularly stocked for the season, I have wanted to fish just about every weekend. However, the Chattahoochee dams are almost always being released, shutting down most opportunities in the Atlanta area. When the dams are released, the stocked trout either hide or are swept down the river, while the water becomes a gross brown color from the runoff mud at water levels too dangerous to wade. More dams will only make this problem worse. Moreover, ecosystems are utterly destroyed by dams. Animals are forced to seek new refuge and their old shelters are covered in water. All of this is done in the name of big business under the guise of water for the public.

Everything possible must be done to combat the building of these dams and reservoirs. It was brought to my attention that two Atlanta natives, David and Michael Hanson, are in the process of planning a canoe trip for this spring from the headwaters of the Chattahoochee down to the Gulf of Mexico in order to raise money and awareness for the danger of bringing more dams to the river. Google their names to learn more about what they have done and how you can contribute! The Chattahoochee River Keepers are working daily to check water levels and raise support for the river’s many needs, including protecting the river from more damming.

Westminster senior Ryan Watson has volunteered for this organization, and I am sure they would love your time and effort as well. As informed citizens of Atlanta who, after reading this article, know more about the danger our river is in, we should do whatever we can to protect this precious gem.

Anything would help: from donating money to certain organizations and individuals like the Hansons who have a vision for the Chattahoochee, or even writing Georgia state government officials. After learning that they want to build this dam in order to channel more water to Atlantans, I am surely going to lower my water intake for this great cause. If the city of Atlanta notices drops in water consumption, then maybe it will change its mind about these dams.