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T opics Discussed at the Workshop The workshop covered a rich array of issues that coalesced around the following major topics: 1) Stakeholder involvement The value of stakeholder participation and input into ACF-ACT operations decisions was mentioned by several meeting participants. Some participants stated that past input from a broad range of stakeholders into ACF-ACT decisions had been inadequate. Discussion on the topic included means and processes by which stakeholder perspectives—and their different water use and management objectives—might be more explicitly incorporated into future ACF-ACT systems management. 2) Rapid population growth and the adequacy of ACF-ACT water supplies to support new users Meeting participants expressed diverse views on this topic. Some participants asserted that water supplies in the river systems were “adequate” for all users, while other participants stated that there is not enough water to supply all users and sectors. Attendees generally acknowledged that additional population growth would add further stresses to the water supply system. Related to these discussions was the topic of water use data. Many participants said that more precise information on water withdrawals, use rates by sector, demand change forecasts and consequences, and return flows—or some type of a basin-wide “water balance” evaluation— would be helpful to the Corps of Engineers, the states, and other decision makers. The presentations and discussions highlighted some differences of opinion about the nature, adequacy, and interpretation of data addressing both population growth and the amount of water available to supply all needs. 3) The flow regime of the lower Apalachicola River and Apalachicola Bay, and implications for navigation, aquatic ecology, and species of concern A topic of central importance in ACF-ACT water management decisions is water flow into Apalachicola Bay. Providing flows that are adequate to protect endangered species is a water 5 PREPUBLICA TION
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6 Summary of a Workshop on Water Issues in the ACT-ACT River Basins management challenge for the Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, particularly during periods of low flow or drought. Upstream users—mainly in Georgia—would like to maintain or increase water withdrawals there, while downstream users and environmental groups—many of them in Florida—are concerned that if flows go too low, that ecosystems and species will be harmed and commercial navigation might be impaired. The Corps and the FWS find themselves in the middle of these debates and differences of opinion and it may not be possible to find flow regimes that consistently satisfy all interests—especially as population and demand grow. The implications of various flow regimes on Apalachicola aquatic species—and the topic of “minimum flows” required for endangered species—was identified by many participants as an important topic for future study. Some participants also identified the importance and challenges associated with providing flows for navigation. 4) W ater conservation design and policy The roles of water conservation practices and environmental design for water conservation were identified by some participants as approaches that could help extend existing water supplies and help address larger, basin-wide water supply concerns. 5) Climate change and drought Climate variability, drought, and climate change were discussed in opening presentations by invited speakers. For example, moderator Dave Moreau pointed out the several, recent dry years in the region and noted that these dry years mark a clear departure from historical climate and hydrologic statistics and variability. Aris Georgakakos, invited speaker from the Georgia Institute of Technology, presented findings from a recent NOAA-funded study indicating that in the southeastern U.S. most climate change scenarios portend reduced water supplies and more severe droughts. Throughout the day, other participants noted the importance of possible climate change and how it may be affecting, and possibly reducing, long-term surface water and groundwater supplies. 6) Ambiguity of Corps of Engineers authorities Many meeting participants stated that there is a lack of clarity regarding the authorities that govern Corps of Engineers’ operations of Buford Dam and other projects through these river basins. Although storage allocations in these projects are governed by language in congressional authorizations, ambiguities arise because of discretionary authorities and emergency powers delegated to the Corps of Engineers. 7) Federal-state decision making processes Some participants asserted that some aspects of the current decision making regime among the federal government and the three basin states inhibit the creation of more workable, timely, and less contentious agreements among the parties. 8) Balancing human water uses and withdrawals with needs of aquatic systems and species PREPUBLICA TION
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T opics Discussed at the Meeting 7 Invited speaker Brian Richter of the Nature Conservancy focused his presentation on ways in which ecosystem needs and the needs of a growing population might be simultaneously accommodated. The need to recognize the economic and other values of ecosystem services was also discussed (e.g., by Sam Hamilton of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service). This is related to point #1 above. 9) The Master Water Control Manual revision process and the timing of any possible NRC study Several cases of litigation currently are being heard in a U.S. district court by Judge Paul Magnuson that may have important implications for Lake Lanier operations and downstream flows into Apalachicola Bay. Some meeting participants urged that the NRC not conduct any study before a decision on these cases is reached; others, however, asserted that an NRC study that could provide advice for better management of shared water resources would be timely (note: Judge Magnuson held a live hearing on these cases in Jacksonville, Florida on May 11, 2009; any NRC study likely would not likely begin before early 2010). PREPUBLICA TION