Savannah River Augusta man wants to help water issues run smoothly

06/27/2005

Braye Boardman sees himself as a peacekeeper of sorts in a war that hasn’t yet been declared.

“We’d like to keep from ending up in the same predicament that Florida and Alabama are in with the state of Georgia,” the Augusta businessman said, referring to the protracted legal battle over water resources shared by the three states.

Mr. Boardman was appointed last week to a new committee created by Gov. Sonny Perdue that will focus on how Georgia and South Carolina can jointly share and manage the Savannah River – and ward off potential conflict.

A similar committee was created by South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford.

“This has obviously gotten a lot of attention from the top down, with both governors showing they are very, very interested,” Mr. Boardman said.

So far, there has been no formal conflict, but there have been skirmishes.

Controversy has raged within Georgia over the issue of interbasin transfers that divert huge quantities of water from one region to another. Such transfers already exist in South Carolina.

Mr. Boardman – also a board member for the Southeastern Natural Sciences Academy – will work with other appointees including Georgia Environmental Protection Division Director Carol Couch, former Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Joe Tanner, current DNR Commissioner Noel Holcomb and Savannah water systems engineer Gus Bell.

“If we could at least start talking about issues now, we can work toward a water compact between the two states,” Mr. Boardman said. “If that succeeded, it would be a model for other places in the country.”

The river has been widely studied in ongoing efforts to manage its diverse regions stretching from the mountains to the coast.

Those past studies, coupled with the science academy’s three-year “Savannah River at Risk” education and research initiative, should give the states solid information on which to make sound decisions, Mr. Boardman said.

“When you talk about something as complex as a river basin, so often the politicians that get involved don’t have the data to make appropriate decisions,” he said. “We will have that data.”

Issues to be explored could include how to conserve or reuse water taken from the river, which could someday stretch the supply to serve a larger population. Mr. Boardman also predicts a lot of attention will go toward preserving the river’s ecosystem, both above and below Augusta.

“I think what we’ll be doing is important,” he said. “It’s a way to help convince people who think the environment isn’t worth anything that there is an important economic value in it. It is one of the economic engines that drives the community, and we sometimes forget that.”

Rob Pavey, Staff Writer