Comments and Questions of CARIA on the Proposed Allocation Formula
Governing the Management of Water Resources Between Alabama and Georgia
Submitted to Jim Campbell, Alternate Commissioner for Alabama to the Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa Compact in a letter dated April 13, 2001
Interbasin Transfer – The agreement allows Georgia to continue transferring up to 150% on any single day and up to 125 % during any month of the applicable Annual Average at any time. We interpret that to mean that, even if Allatoona and Carters Lake Reservoirs were to be below the respective Lower Guide Curves, there is nothing to prevent Georgia from continuing to withdraw up to its applicable limit. In other words, the ACF Basin would benefit from a transfer that would exacerbate a drought condition, regardless of its severity, in the ACT, which does not seem equitable. The water transferred to the ACF comes from the Allatoona Reservoir, which is not subject to the 25% AADF restrictions. It would be more equitable and fair to require Georgia to “share the pain” of a drought and reduce the amount of water transferred by some degree as long as the reservoir level is at or below the Intermediate Guide Curve.
Recommendation: As a general principle, we are opposed to increasing the amount of water transferred out of the ATC Basin. If such a transfer is critical to an agreement, however, a provision should be incorporated into the agreement that reduces any transfer of water out of the ACT Basin commensurate with the ability to maintain minimum flows at Mayo’s Bar as dictated by paragraph 2.2 in the agreement.
Mayo’s Bar Flows – Wording in the agreement is not clear on what the 1800 cfs and 1200 cfs parameters are. The language in paragraph 2.2 A through J uses words like “equals 1800 cfs” even when Allatoona and Carters Reservoirs are above the Intermediate Guide Curve, which could mean full pool. This wording implies the 1800 number is a target figure. Many people think it is. The model run shows that, even when all the agreement’s parameters and projected demands are factored in, the projected flow at Mayo’s Bar would be above 1800 cfs 95% of the time. This needs to be explained more clearly to the public at large.
Recommendation: Revise the wording of these paragraphs to show clearly when the 1800 cfs parameter applies and make a concerted effort to assure ACT stakeholders 1800 cfs and 1200 cfs are not targets. You are already trying to do the latter, but obviously more education is needed.
Monitoring and Reporting – The only requirement to monitor or report to the ACT Committee on how much water is withdrawn or transferred from the ACT Basin during other than drought conditions is an annual report each June (Para 5.C.2.f.). That means that any of the transfer and withdrawal limits could be exceeded by any party in either state for an extended period of time with no oversight. Where is the management? This is a “Trust Us” scenario. How will reporting in June that Georgia withdrew more than its monthly transfer limit over two consecutive months in August and September be effective management? Apparently the withdrawal and transfer data could be available on a monthly basis. Why can’t that data by officially reported to the enforcing body, i.e., the ACT Commission, more frequently than is now spelled out in the agreement? The current wording constitutes a complete lack of accountability and does not pass the test of reason or good management.
Recommendation: Change the agreement to require reporting of withdrawal and transfer data to the ACT Commission on at least a quarterly basis and demand action to rectify any discrepancies or violations of the agreement. This provision should be acceptable to any party whose intentions are forthright and responsible. It’s called being accountable.
Suspension Link to the ACF – The proposed ACT agreement is heavily dependent on acquiring an agreement on the ACF. It would appear the only reason Georgia wants to link the two is to hold a hammer over Alabama should problems arise with the ACF agreement, which is apparently more important to the Atlanta area. Should the ACF fail to materialize, then it’s obvious Georgia would most likely alter its demands on the ACT. Further, even if both the ACF and ACT agreements are implemented, the various options spelled out in Section 4 make it easy to suspend the agreement on almost any technicality, even if the dispute pertains to the ACF only. This puts Georgia in the driver’s seat, no matter what. The linkage between the two agreements has no perceptible benefit to the State of Alabama.
Recommendation: None, except take any opportunity possible to remove the link between the two agreements.
25% Annual Average Daily Flow Limitations – These limitations would appear to be a major factor primarily during low flow conditions. Should flow conditions reach the 25% of the annual average daily flow at the state line or mouth of each river as defined in the proposal, entities permitted for withdrawal after the agreement has been implemented may be required to cease withdrawals. (For some, an additional reservoir may help.) This restriction could affect large industrial and municipal permits in both Alabama and Georgia. How will it be enforced? How will it be determined that withdrawals are exceeding the 25% cap? Who will determine which entity will cease withdrawing water?
Recommendation: Explain this provision clearly to the stakeholders. As future withdrawal permits are sought (Shelby County is proposing to withdraw up to 50 mgd from the Coosa and the City of Birmingham is investigating withdrawals from the Coosa as well), this provision could have some dramatic effects. To ensure Alabama manages its water resources properly, the State should develop a comprehensive water management plan. Future permit seekers and the public need to understand there will be limitations on withdrawals.
Contracts – Paragraph 3.1A says that nothing in this agreement shall “prohibit Georgia from seeking , nor the COE from executing,” a contract to withdraw more than 220 mgd from Allatoona and 60 mgd from Carters Reservoirs. What is the basis for the withdrawal limitation from each reservoir? Do those figures represent a cap on total withdrawal demands, including transfer quantities, from the reservoir? Does the wording mean that, at its prerogative, Georgia may seek, without due process under an ACT agreement, higher withdrawals from the reservoirs? If this prerogative exists, what’s the point of the caps? The intent of this paragraph is not clear.
Recommendation: Explain the source of the 220 mgd from Allatoona and the 60 mgd from Carters. Define the scope of the provision that allows Georgia to seek higher withdrawals and longer terms for withdrawing surface water than is currently stipulated in the proposal.
Flood Control – The projected levels for both Federal and Alabama Power reservoirs throughout the ACT Basin, at least as reflected in the 2030G model run, will result in higher average levels throughout the year. That means that flood storage will be reduced with potential consequences for communities downstream. We don’t know what the extent of these effects will be, but, before such changes are made, an attempt must be made to determine those effects. If an analysis of the effects reveals an increased risk to downstream sites, are we prepared to accept a greater risk of flooding in Rome or Montgomery to accommodate a desire to have higher lake levels for recreation or lake property values? Surely, the higher reservoir levels cannot be just to ensure water supply.
Recommendation: Determine the potential effects of reduced flood storage on downstream communities
Stipulated flow of 4640 CFS to the Alabama River – Paragraph 2.3 formalizes the requirement for Alabama Power Company to provide a weekly average minimum release of 4640 cfs from Bouldin, Jordan, and Thurlow Dams. We are concerned about the caveat that the flow will be maintained provided nothing happens “to impose any additional obligations upon the State of Georgia or the COE.” Precisely what does the phrase “additional obligations” mean? What possible scenario, other than a drought even more severe than the one we experienced in 2000, could require Alabama Power to reduce the flow below the 4640? In addition, we’ve heard comments from reviewers of this proposal about whether we need to maintain the 4640 cfs, thinking that the flow is required only to support navigation on the Alabama River. The purpose of that 4640 cfs flow needs to be explained to stakeholders. The flow is needed to support more than just navigation. It also supports hydropower generation, recreation, water supply, and environmental requirements on the Alabama River.
Recommendation: An explanation of the 4640 cfs flow rate should not be in the wording of the agreement, but its purpose should be explained to the general public at some point to preclude unnecessary objections.
Reduced Instream Flows in the Alabama River – The 2030G model run shows reduced flows at both the Montgomery and Claiborne gages. These reductions have at least three possible consequences during drought conditions: a) A reduced flow at Montgomery has the potential of diminishing hydropower generation capability at the Jones Bluff plant at the Robert F. Henry Dam and, in turn, Millers Ferry, by reducing the number of hours the facilities can generate. This, of course affects the amount of power generated and drives up costs; b) At Claiborne, the reduced flow means that the 7500 cfs required to maintain a dredged navigation channel is available even less frequently, which can only exacerbate the reliability problem already present; and, c) Less flow in the Alabama may affect supply intakes for industries on the river. We acknowledge that future withdrawal demands upstream may dictate some reduction, but these potential consequences should be thoroughly examined and related to those entities affected.
Recommendation: An analysis of the potential effects of the consequences noted above and others is in order. To the extent possible, those affected by these changes, i.e., the general public, should be made aware of what those consequences are.