Meeting Summary: Upper Flint Council February 7, 2017

Meeting Summary

Upper Flint Regional Water Council Meeting

One Griffin Center – Griffin, GA

February 7, 2017

Welcome, Introductions, Chairman's Discussion

Upper Flint Vice-Chair Dick Morrow welcomed members to Griffin and thanked everyone for their attendance. Council Chair Donald Chase also thanked members for taking time to participate in the meeting and offered an invocation. A quorum of members was present. Kristin Rowles (GWPPC) presented the summary of the January 11, 2017 Council meeting for review. Following a motion by Randy Starling and a second by Joel Wood, the meeting summary from the January 11, 2017 Upper Flint Council meeting was approved by consensus. Kristin Rowles (GWPPC) then reviewed the meeting agenda and objectives.

Water Quality Assessment Results

Glen Behrend and Dr. Elizabeth Booth (GAEPD) reviewed the results from the water quality assessment results (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:

  • Responding to a question, Dr. Booth also commented that GAEPD can use its models to separately identify loadings from point and non-point sources.
  • Dr. Booth reported that GAEPD has nutrient water quality standards for six lakes in Georgia. Following 2005 guidance from EPA, GAEPD developed a plan to identify nutrient management standards for all remaining lakes within Georgia. Data collection was a main component of the management plans which is ongoing. Numeric nutrient criteria are being developed for Lakes Oconee and Sinclair. Ultimately, 28 lakes will have numeric nutrient criteria. GAEPD has invested approximately $8 million in data collection, model development, and setting nutrient management standards.
  • A Council member commented that loadings from point sources can only address part of the total loadings of nutrients. Non-point source management will be needed to meet downstream nutrient limits.
  • A Council member commented that poultry farmers generally have nutrient management plans. He said that the results from Lake Seminole are encouraging and speak to good nutrient management in a largely agricultural watershed. He said that farmers are incorporating nutrient management through USDA NRCS conservation management plans and USDA Conservation Stewardship Programs.
  • A Council member asked if converting septic systems to sewer connections would lead to a spike in nitrogen loading.
    • Dr. Booth offered that increases in point source discharges could lead to higher nutrient loadings.
  • A few Council members said that ammonium nitrate, as a source for nitrogen fertilizer, may be less environmentally harmful than those presently used. They said that regulations that limit the use of ammonium nitrate as fertilizer should be reviewed.
  • In response to a question, Dr. Booth said that nutrient limits in the Flint River Basin will be developed in about four years.
  • Council members asked Dr. Booth for suggestions for the regional water plan. She suggested:
    • Increase awareness among wastewater facilities, especially small facilities, of the coming changes in nutrient standards and specifically in ammonia treatment requirements.  She noted that approximately 120 treatment facilities in the state will need to be upgraded.
    • While Georgia is in relatively good shape at this time regarding nutrient management, there is a need to remain diligent.
    • Fifty percent of streams in Georgia are listed as impaired for fecal coliform. Additional information is needed on the source of contamination. We need to consider the role of instream sediment as a potential source that may be activated in large rain events.
    • Support implementation of best management practices to help attain nutrient standards.
      • It was noted that for agriculture, these practices might include chemigation, nutrient management planning, animal waste management, and conservation tillage.
  • A Council member noted that nonpoint source management practices often seek to increase infiltration, but that infiltration reduces return flows.
    • Dr. Booth agreed, but said that infiltration contributes to instream flows by supporting baseflow.
  • Council members asked whether the Flint or Chattahoochee contributes more to nutrient flows into Florida.
    • Dr. Booth commented that the Chattahoochee is likely contributing more nitrogen to the flow into Florida. She said that meeting water quality standards in the future will likely be more difficult, but Georgia is currently meeting water quality standards at the state line at Jim Woodruff dam. She also noted that nutrient loads from metro Atlanta will be decreased in the future, and loads from other parts of the basin will need to be considered and addressed.

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 agricultural meters need to be calibrated regularly?  
    • Yes, the Soil and Water Conservation Commission has been checking them on a three to four year cycle.
  • If there much room for improvement in agricultural water conservation based on these results?
    • Agriculture has done a good job at picking the low hanging fruit with their equipment.
  • Was data like this included in Supreme Court arguments?
    • Yes.

Following a motion from Randy Starling, the council approved by consensus a recommendation to expand field verification efforts on conservation practices in the entire Flint River Basin.

The Chairman asked Gary Hawkins (UGA) to share some information on the benefits of conservation tillage, a practice that addresses both water conservation and water quality. Mr. Hawkins said that conservation tillage manages land with cover crops throughout year to build organic matter. As organic matter builds in the soil, it can hold more water and help to reduce irrigation needs. A one percent increase in organic matter can decrease irrigation needs by one inch of applied water. Mr. Hawkins said we want to get a better sense of the level of adoption of conservation tillage in the field.  He estimated it is used by 20-40% of farmers.  He noted that it is not generally used in peanut production because it adversely affects yields.

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

{Lunch Break}

After lunch, Lance Renfrow (River Valley Regional Commission) gave a brief update on a project in the region related to implementation of composting for deer carcasses. He said that the Commission was supporting better practices for carcass disposal to prevent adverse water quality impacts. It had been noted in the previous Council meeting that dumping of deer carcasses into streams was a problem. The River Valley Regional Commission received a grant to establish a deer carcass composting facility and educational materials for hunters in the Pataula Creek watershed.

Metro Water District Plan Comments

Kristin Rowles reviewed the draft comment letter on the draft Metro Water District plan. The comment letter was developed based on committee review of the plan. The committee members included Raines Jordan, Dick Morrow, Brant Keller, Buddy Leger, and Randy Starling. In discussion, the Council members suggested minor wording changes to the letter. Following a motion by Dick Morrow and a second by Raines Jordan, the comment letter, with revisions suggested during the meeting, 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 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 Quality Resource Assessment, 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 a summary of Council discussion of the revisions:

Section 6:

  • For DM4, a Council member commented that the 90% irrigation efficiency and irrigation scheduling benchmarks are attainable.
  • For DM7, it was noted that the Georgia Forestry Commission does not have an awards program for BMP implementation. Should change to “forestry industry.”
  • A Council member commented that a lot of the incentive funding from the Georgia Soil and Water Conservation Commission is no longer available.
  • Dick Morrow suggested striking ASR language (SF-4). Other members offered support for striking ASR language. There was no objection to removing SF-4 on ASR from the Management Practices.
  • Check whether the percent treated by Land Application Systems in RM1 is permitted or actual.
  • Change last sentence of first full paragraph on p. 6-14. Change “the only way to satisy the modeled gap” to “one way to satisfy the modeled gap would be”. Remove the underlining for this sentence.

Section 7:

  • Regarding the information for evaluation of the permit threshold for water withdrawals (top of p. 7-15), the Council members discussed several modifications. It was noted that the intent was to evaluate whether there is value in permitting withdrawals of less than 100,000 gallons per day. The Council discussed whether 10,000 gallons per days was an appropriate suggestion to consider (as drafted). It was generally agreed that it would be better not to set a specific target for evaluation, but instead to suggest that the issue be evaluated to determine an appropriate threshold. The Council members agreed to keep the recommendation but to drop the reference to 10,000 gallons per day by deleting everything after “…and groundwater).”
  • In the recommendation about information needs related to farm and amenity ponds (top of page 7-16), it was suggested by Council members that impacts on water quality should also be evaluated.
  • The Council members suggested dropping the last information need recommendation about peer review for the lake and watershed assessment models.
  • Council members agreed that evaluation of interbasin transfers (recommendation at top of p. 7-17) should be expanded to include both scientific and economic evaluation.
  • A Council member noted that need to be cautious about possible contradictions in the plan as changes are made.

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 with be removed. New edits made after today will be presented in the mark-up for the March meeting draft.

Small Group Discussions – Review of Management Practices and Recommendations

Next, Kristin asked the Council members to divide into small groups to discuss 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. These groups focused on Management Practices (Section 6) and Recommendations to the State (Section 7.4). 

Kristin said that the group facilitators have notes on areas of these sections to focus on based on the Council’s 2015 Revision and Revision Priorities Report, 2014 Implementation Assessment Report, the updated resource assessment results, and recent Council discussions. The objective for the break-out group discussions 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.

The first group focused on the water quality related Management Practices in Section 6.  Based on the small group discussion, the following will be the main areas of focus for revisions for the Council to consider:

  • Management Practice WQ-1: No change.
  • Management Practice WQ-2:
    • Change 1st bullet point to “Revised Georgia Stormwater Management Manual.”
    • Add a bullet point to address consideration of amenity ponds as a water quality management tool.
    • Encourage landowners to participate in the Conservation Stewardship Program and to complete farm conservation plans that may include on-farm nutrient management.
    • Combine bullet points 2 and 3 to say “promote and implement best management practices for water quality for all industries.”
  • Management Practice WQ-3:
    • Change the last bullet to say ““Encourage implementation and maintenance of stream buffers to improve water quality in the region.”
    • Add: “in conjunction with ACCG, GMA and American Public Works Association” to the speakers’ bureau bullet point.
    • Change third bullet point to “Encourage increased education on best management practices for dirt road maintenance through implementation of the Georgia Better Back Roads Field Manual.” Check on whether the Better Back Roads manual reference need to be updated.
  • Management Practice WQ-4: Acknowledge improved data since first round of planning, but no changes to practices.
  • Management Practice WQ-5:
    • Move “document ongoing activities…” to WQ-4.
    • Change “hot spots” to “areas of concern.”
    • Add: “develop a clearinghouse of technology tools available.” Add reference to GIS, satellite imagery and drone work related to water quality.
    • Change the management practice language to read “water quality management information.”

In the small group discussion, a Council member said that the plan does not directly address streamflow as it relates to water quality. He will offer some suggested language to add to address this topic. It was noted that it might fit bets in Section 7.4. It was also noted that it might be helpful to add language to address expected nutrient standards discussed in today’s presentation in the Section 7.4 recommendations.

The second group focused on the recommendations in Section 7.4 regarding water quality and other topics that have not yet been discussed. Based on the small group discussion, the following will be the main areas of focus for revisions:

  • Keep the recommendation regarding the Triennial Review (p. 7-16).
  • Drop the last information need recommendation about peer review for the lake and watershed assessment models (p. 7-16).
  • For the recommendation regarding the Council’s authority and role (3rd bullet point on p. 7-17), the small group discussed various options for modifications. The following is a summary of the discussion:
    • The regional water plans have lots of good ideas, but need money and authority for implementation. Where will that come from?
    • We like the idea of stakeholder leadership in water resources management.
    • We do not need another taxing authority or something like the Florida Water Management Districts.
    • Consider a voluntary institutional approach that accepts user fees and implements conservation practices. Some concerns were noted that this approach would not get enough support and involvement.
    • It will be difficult to get authority or funding for the regional water councils from the General Assembly, but we should try.
    • The group would like to see a revised recommendation that is based on the Middle Chattahoochee recommendation on this issue (reviewed by the small group during the discussion).  Keep the ideas of stakeholder leadership, transboundary scope, river basin boundaries, and need for funding.  Do not address revenue raising ability. Present this for consideration at the next meeting. Kristin will share a draft recommendation with the small group as an ad hoc committee before the next meeting (including: Gary Powell, Raines Jordan, Dick Morrow, Beth English, Beth Neely-Hadley, Randy Starling, Joel Wood, and Donald Chase). The small group suggested that this recommendation be presented to the Middle Chattahoochee and Lower Flint-Ochlockonee Councils as a possible joint recommendation.

The Council reconvened and briefly reviewed the above outcomes of the small group discussions. Kristin reported that technical support staff would review Council member input and bring suggested edits to the plan at the next Council meeting.

Public Comment

There was no public comment.

Next Steps and Adjournment

Kristin Rowles said that she would be in touch with the ad hoc committee members to review the text of the revised draft recommendation on the Council’s authority and role (see above). The Council will meet on March 22nd. 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 Donald Chase thanked members for attending and the meeting was adjourned.

Council Members Attending February 7, 2017 Meeting:

  • Donald Chase, Chair
  • Dick Morrow, Vice Chair
  • Hays Arnold
  • Gene Brunson
  • Beth English
  • Fred Granitz
  • Beth Neely-Hadley
  • Jack Holbrook
  • Terrell Hudson
  • Raines Jordan
  • Brant Keller
  • Lamar Perlis
  • Gary Powell
  • Larry Smith
  • Randall Starling
  • Rodney Wilson
  • Joel Wood

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