Floor and Committee Statements

Tuesday, October 16, 2007 -

Floor Statement on Georgia's Water Crisis

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA)
Floor Statement on Georgia's Water Crisis
Remarks as Delivered on the Senate Floor

Mr. President, we pass lots of laws in the Congress of the United States, and from time to time there is a byproduct of the passage of some of those laws. It is called the law of unintended consequences. Such is the case with the Endangered Species Act.

In my State of Georgia, we are in a level 4, 100-year drought. As many as 7 million citizens in my State are looking at the possibility of there being no drinking water in less than 120 days. Our State has imposed restrictions of every kind. Landscapers are out of business, car washes are threatened, and there is no outdoor watering.

My home county of Cobb, in the last 14 days, has reduced, through conservation, water consumption by 20 percent. I personally commend commission chairman Sam Olens and the entire North Georgia Water Planning District for everything they are doing. But in the absence of rain, there is nothing we can do.

Why does this affect the Endangered Species Act? Very simply because a court case was filed a few years ago under the Endangered Species Act asking for the management of the Chattahoochee River basin to be controlled so as to protect sturgeon. The judge in that case finally ruled as much and developed the judge's own interim operating plan for the Chattahoochee River. That plan means the Corps of Engineers makes releases to keep the flow in the Chattahoochee River where the sturgeon exist at a level sufficient to sustain the sturgeon. The problem is the level is insufficient to sustain human life in North Georgia if it continues.

This morning, just a few minutes ago, on behalf of myself and Senator Chambliss, I introduced legislation to amend the Endangered Species Act to deal with this law of unintended consequences. It very simply says the following: The head of the Army Corps of Engineers or the Governor of a State, within which a region lies where there is a drought that threatens the health, safety, and welfare of the people in that region, may suspend the course and effect of the Endangered Species Act until that endangerment has passed.

It is a simple request. We are at a place in time in our country and in a region, my home region, the State I represent, where the health, safety, and welfare of my people are threatened. They are threatened by an act this Congress passed that had no intention to threaten them. If we have the power to do that, we also have the power to make the exception to see to it that their drinking water is safe and their livelihood is safe and at hand.

This is a critical, critical emergency. It is time sensitive. I urge each Member of the Senate to follow this simple legislation and this simple proposal and think about what they might do if it was their State, if it was their people. It is time we gave the Army Corps the latitude and the Governors of the States the authority to protect our people.

I stood in this Chamber 3 years ago and raised my right hand and agreed to defend the Constitution of the United States and protect the domestic tranquility from enemies foreign and domestic. Today I stand recognizing there is a domestic enemy, and that enemy is the Endangered Species Act which controls the Chattahoochee River and limits access to drinking water and safe water for the people of north Georgia. I urge Members of the Senate to join myself and Senator Chambliss in this critical and important legislation.