Meeting Summary: Middle Chattachoochee Council February 8, 2017

February 8, 2017

Meeting Summary

Middle Chattahoochee Regional Water Council Meeting

Columbus Water Works

February 8, 2017

Welcome, Introductions, Chairman's Discussion

Council Chair Steve Davis thanked members for attending the meeting. Council members and guests then introduced themselves. A quorum of members was present. Kristin Rowles (GWPPC) presented the summary of the January 10, 2017 Council meeting for review. Following a motion by Matt Windom and second by Gloria Weston-Smart, the summary from the January 10, 2017 Middle Chattahoochee Council meeting was approved as presented. Kristin Rowles (GWPPC) then reviewed the meeting agenda and objectives.

Water Quality Assessment Results

Dr. Elizabeth Booth (GAEPD) reviewed the results from the water quality assessment updates (slides available). Topics discussed included water quality parameters modeled along with potential areas of concern within the watershed. Discussion of the water quality assessment including the following:

  • In response to a question, Dr. Booth said that GAEPD does not typically change permit limits unless a discharge expansion is requested by the permit holder or a violation is observed. During permit reevaluation, a revised or updated 7Q10 may be used. She also reported that updated 7Q10s are available from a recent USGS report posted to the GAEPD Watershed Protection Branch website.
  • Dr. Booth clarified that the 30Q3 reflects the 30-day average low flow calculated with a statistical three-year recurrence (i.e., occurs on average once every 3 years). This amount is generally higher than the 7Q10 flow.
  • Members requested details as to the facilities in this Council region that may be affected by future changes in ammonia, BOD, and DO standards.
  • Dr. Booth clarified that she uses landscape runoff as the main driver in modeling nonpoint sources, and it is based largely on rainfall. During a dry year, point source discharges become more of a factor, while in wet years, non-point source impacts become more of a factor.
    • Dr. Liz Kramer (UGA) developed a predictive model of land-use change that was used as a component in the water quality assessment. Dr. Booth commented that the land-use estimates have not been updated from the first round of planning. Several members expressed concern that there could be over-estimates of the urban land-use impacts.  They noted that this is an information need. Dr. Booth reminded the Council that her modeling also considers land-use and discharge data from the state of Alabama.
  • Council members asked why the nutrient criteria for Lake W.F. George are significantly lower than for West Point. Dr. Booth said that she would look into how the criteria for the lakes were established.
    • A Council member commented that the standards may be so low that natural conditions could violate the criteria during certain periods. The Council requested the forested nonpoint source estimate for comparison.
  • Dr. Booth suggested that nitrogen limits are likely on the horizon for many dischargers given the estimated nitrogen loads under current permit conditions at West Point and W.F. George. Dr. Booth also noted that GAEPD will be developing criteria for major lakes within Georgia. The process of developing criteria is done through a Triennial Review process, which includes stakeholder meetings and opportunities for public comment and input. The timeline for completion of the nutrient criteria is roughly 2021, but it may take a bit longer. She also commented that total nitrogen limits set by Florida for Lake Seminole may be a factor in the development of upstream nutrient criteria.
  • A Council member suggested that comprehensive data collection to inform future modeling should be an important water quality management practice. Dr. Booth also offered that GAEPD will also be incorporating updated land-use data, as it becomes available, into future modeling.  GAEPD currently has a contract with UGA to provide land use information from 2014.

Agricultural Water Conservation Practices Assessment

Mark Masters (GWPPC) presented information on an assessment of agricultural water conservation practices compiled in the Lower Flint Basin (slides available). He commented that this baseline information may be useful in assisting the Council identify and scope potential conservation practices for agricultural water use. At the conclusion of the presentation, Mark Masters noted that more information on conservation practice adoption would help to support better planning and management practice targeting. He noted the need for information on a wider geographic area and on more practices. Discussion on the presentation included the following:

  • Do you see more drip irrigation being used?
    • It depends.  Center pivot irrigation is the most cost-effective on larger fields.  Drip irrigation is generally used for pecans and smaller applications.  Also, drip irrigation is not as common for surface water sources because of the increased need for filtration.
  • Did you have all irrigated fields or just permitted fields in your survey?
    • We included all the irrigated fields that we could find, not just permitted fields.
  • Aren’t meters required for agricultural withdrawals?
    • Yes, for all agricultural withdrawals with greater than 100,000 gallons per day. The state is still working on getting the metering program fully implemented.
  • How do you get acreage information for fields? Is it available from USDA data?
    • USDA has data, but it’s not consistently reliable, and more detailed information from the USDA Farm Service Agency is collected but not available due to privacy concerns. Our data is based on field work and aerial/satellite imagery.
  • When did most of the more efficient irrigation equipment get installed?
    • A large number of systems have been retrofitted to more efficient technology in the past 10 to 15 years. Many older systems have also been replaced by more efficient systems.
  • Is there a recommendation we can make to help make this information more available and beneficial?
    • Expand field verification in Flint, Chattahoochee, and other watersheds.
    • Incentivize more direct links with farmers to increase data collection through self-reporting. More data would help to understand water use better.  Need information such as monthly use and crops grown.
    • There is more to conservation than equipment.  We would like to see more quantification/baseline data on other conservation methods (conservation tillage, conservation scheduling, smart systems).
  • A Council member commented that these practices can help the farmer as well as promote conservation of water resources.
  • A Council member commented that the improvements in agricultural efficiency are important beyond just the heavily irrigated portion of the Council area (mostly in Randolph County) because of the connection with water use in the ACF System as a whole.

Update on Surface Water Availability Assessment Results

Before lunch, Christine Voudy (GAEPD) provided a response to the Council’s request for a revised presentation of lake levels based on the recent surface water assessment results (slides available). Several Council members expressed concern about the current and future estimated 100% exceedance flow at the Columbus node (160 cfs). This result occurs due to negative numbers found in the Unimpaired Flows (UIF) dataset used by the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). GAEPD intends to work with USACE to update the UIF dataset. The Council Chair suggested a recommendation for the states and USACE to coordinate on an update to the UIF dataset.

Before lunch Kristin Rowles distributed a draft comment letter on the draft Metro Water District plan for review over lunch.

{Lunch Break}

Metro Water District Plan Comments

Kristin Rowles reviewed the draft comment letter on the draft Metro Water District plan. The comment letter was developed with input from Council members that reviewed the draft plan and the committee that met with the Metro Water District on November 29, 2016. Following a motion by Paul Chappell and a second by Gloria Weston-Smart, the comment letter was approved by consensus. The approved comment letter is attached, and it will be submitted to the Metro Water District by the Chairman.

Review and Discussion of Plan Revisions from January Meeting

Kristin Rowles led a discussion of the Plan revisions suggested at the January 2017 Council meeting. These revisions affected Sections 6, 7.3, and 7.4 of the plan. The revisions primarily affected areas of the plan related to the Water Availability Resource Assessments, but also addressed some general recommendations in Section 7.4. Kristin reviewed the changes, which were identified in a marked-up version of the plan that was distributed to the Council as a pre-meeting material. The following is a summary of Council discussion of the revisions:

Section 6:

  • Management Practice WC-1: For the water loss audits for smaller systems (last bullet point), add that these should be done consistently with the methods required for larger systems.
  •  Management Practice WC-2: Modify to say “Change rate structures to conservation rate structures” in first bullet point.
  • Management Practice IU-1 and Recommendation #1 (Section 7.4): After discussion with Dr. Booth, it was suggested that references to the Clean Water Act antidegradation requirements be changed back to reference to the FERC license requirements instead.
  • Council members discussed bringing more of the language about increased storage opportunities from the recommendations into the Management Practices. They decided to leave the text on p. 6-12 as-is, but they said it would be helpful to cross-reference some of this discussion in the recommendations and Management Practices on this topic. In the recommendations, note that the storage modeling analysis indicates a need for significant storage and consumptive demand management to address the gap.

Section 7:

  • See above note about FERC license requirements above.
  • Add note about need for funding in bullet point #2 in recommendation #1 (rule curve evaluations).
  • Add a bullet to Recommendation #1 regarding the need for comprehensive review/update of the UIF dataset by the USACE and states in the ACF.
  • The Council noted it would be ok to move Recommendation #9 to the joint recommendations if the Upper Flint and Lower Flint-Ochlockonee Councils are interested in doing so.

Kristin said that the above suggestions would be incorporated into the next round of edits to be discussed at the March Council meeting.  She noted that at the March meeting, the Council will approve the full draft of the revised plan for release to public review. She asked the Council if they generally agreed to the changes discussed today, while noting the above revisions. The Council noted by consensus that it approved the presented changes, with revisions noted above. Kristin said that the mark-up for the edits discussed today would be removed. New edits made after today will be presented in the mark-up for the March meeting draft.

Review of Management Practices and Recommendations

Next, Kristin led a discussion of possible revisions to areas of the plan that relate to today’s presentation regarding water quality and other recommendations that have not yet been addressed in the Management Practices (Section 6) and Recommendations to the State (Section 7.4). Kristin said that the objective for the discussion was to get input on how to modify these parts of the plan for the next meeting. The input will provide guidance to the consultant team to draft revisions. Council decisions on the revisions will be taken up at the next meeting.

Based on the discussion, the following will be the main areas of focus for revisions:

  • Management Practice WQ-2: Add language on agricultural stream buffer BMPs (see text from Upper Flint Management Practices, specifically language on USDA Conservation Stewardship Program and farm conservation plans).
  • Management Practice WQ-3: Add language to focus practice on municipal areas.
  • Management Practice WQ-4: Add language to more strongly encourage property tax abatement to incentivize conservation easements, particularly related to forested buffers.
  • Management Practice WQ-5: Address Dr. Booth’s comment on the need to maintain updated land-use data to support water quality resource assessments and note that collection of total nitrogen data from wastewater treatment plants will be an important tool in addressing nutrient criteria.
  • Management Practice WQ-6:
    • #1: “The Council encourages increased Section 319(h)…”
    • #2: Address the need to raise awareness of local governments of the Better Back Roads manual. Consider ACCG as a vehicle for raising awareness.
    • #3: Add reference to local conservation districts and federal funding opportunities for agricultural BMPs (e.g., USDA CSP), including nutrient management plans and other BMPs.
    • #4: Change District to Commission.
  • Management Practice WQ-7: Delete because coordination with other Councils is covered in Section 7.4 and should not be limited to Water Quality.
  • Management Practice WQ-8: Address need to consider revision to W.F. George nutrient criteria, with recognition of the impact of background loads of nutrients at West Point Lake. Consider additional recognition of Florida nutrient standards and potential impacts.  Acknowledge that GAEPD will start to collect total nitrogen (TN) data from dischargers. More awareness is needed of pending TN permit limits in future and the need to address nonpoint sources as well as point sources to meet nutrient criteria.
  • Section 6.2.3: Will be updated to reflect changes in the Management Practices and February 8th Council discussion. Also, update first full paragraph on p. 6-15 to include updated information from Bert Early (Georgia Forestry Commission) on 2015 survey results regarding forestry BMP implementation.
  • Recommendation #3 (p. 7-16):
    • Update nutrient load projections at Whitesburg. 
    • It is difficult to quantify the impacts of BMPs. Need more research to quantify BMP effectiveness. It might be possible to quantify BMP impact from Whitesburg load estimates and point source data over time.
    • Add information from Metro Water Plan comment letter on nutrient loads to the recommendation.
    • Evaluate/consider tightening of water quality standards at West Point.
    • Check on what data is required to be collected for MS4 permits and consider how to incorporate into nutrient management information needs.
    • Recommend on-going peer review of lake and watershed models and continue with an interactive process between Council and GAEPD to improve and validate model accuracy and calibration and how the model is used in the regulatory setting.
  • Recommendation #7 (p. 7-20): Address stormwater BMPs: How effective are they and what practices are most effective?
  • Recommendation #9: Ok to consider as a joint recommendation with Lower Flint-Ochlockonee and Upper Flint. May need some editing to make consistent among all three.
  • Recommendation #11 (p. 7-22): Modify to say resource assessments are one piece of information that can be used in permitting decisions.

Public Comment

There was no public comment.

Next Steps and Adjournment

Kristin Rowles said that the Council will meet next on March 23rd. Kristin will be in touch soon with information on the meeting location, and a pre-meeting packet with the marked-up draft plan will be sent out approximately 10 days before the meeting.  The next meeting will be focused on review and approval of the draft plan for release for public review.

Council Chair Steve Davis thanked members for attending and the meeting was adjourned.

Council Members Attending February 8, 2017 Meeting:

  • Steve Davis, Chair
  • Alan Bell
  • Paul Chappell
  • James Emery
  • Jimmy Thompson
  • Gloria Weston-Smart
  • Matt Windom