Union County, Georgia: Watershed Highlights 2015

Across a watershed, natural commonalities of interest

Blairsville, Ga., Feb. 20, 2016 – Living together in a watershed unites people from all over who find they share a desire to protect its beauty and health. Nancy Troxler is a North Carolina Master Gardener who honed further her knowledge of plant science at Georgia’s Experiment Station, now renamed the UGA Mountain Research and Education Center.

We happen to live in the high and challenging Area 6B on the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture plant hardiness zone map. Two of the very best examples for when and how to successfully plant the appropriate plant species in 6B are the tilled areas of the Research and Education Center here and Troxler’s yard in the Brasstown community near Murphy.

The late Jim Dobson of the experiment station was first recipient of the Holman Water Quality Stewardship Award in 2009. Lamar Paris, sole commissioner of Union County government was the second in 2010. Troxler will be the eighth at Hiwassee River Watershed Coalition’s banquet March 3.

The recent HRWC Union County projects have included:
-Participation in environmental field days at the Research and Education Center;
-Working in partnership with Chattahoochee-Hiwassee Chapter 692 of Trout Unlimited on cold-water fisheries restoration projects;
-Water-quality monitoring (including for E.coli) monthly at five locations on streams and the river flowing to Lake Nottely; and
-Developing a plan for continuing watershed restoration efforts in the Butternut Creek watershed.

Meeks Park is a model U.S. county recreation facility. Commissioner Paris and TVA officials cut a ribbon officially opening a new canoe and kayak launch ramp there.

ATLANTA-BASED BREAK AWAY, it’s called, has the goal of leading U.S. college students to spend their spring breaks not goofing off but instead undertaking projects that contribute to the common good. Break Away’s 2015 Community Partner of the Year award went to Hiwassee River Watershed Coalition.

David Ralston of nearby Blue Ridge, Ga., is Speaker of the Ga. House of Representatives. The House Natural Resources and Environment Committee’s bill list reflects how environmental measures have the attention of north Georgia legislators. In House resolution 1343, an Elberton member calls for the withdrawal of EPA’s new Clean Water Rule. In HR 613, an Alpharetta member wants the same fate to befall the EPA Clean Air Plan.

A WATER WAR continues as Georgia is spending $20 million on 70 lawyers “to prove Georgia’s prudent stewardship of the Chattahoochee and Flint rivers and Florida’s abuse of the Apalachicola River and bay,” according to Dan Chapman in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in December 2015.

Eighty-five-year-old attorney Ralph Lancaster of Maine is the U.S. Supreme Court’s appointed Special Master for this. He has previously mediated four other interstate disputes. “I hope I live long enough to see this one concluded,” Lancaster said.

Tom Bennett of the Martins Creek community near Murphy, N.C., is a retired newsman, Hiwassee River Watershed Coalition member/volunteer and winner of the 2015 Holman Water Quality Stewardship Award. E-mail him at farblumtn07@gmail.com