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There is nobody here but us mollusks

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POSTED: January 15, 2008 5:00 a.m.

‘We’re not in this crisis because of growth," Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle told a north Georgia group last week, but because "we’re in the worst drought in our state’s history," and because the Corps of Engineers has been sending water downstream "for the purpose of feeding mussels."

We’ll buy the drought part. God makes a more compelling argument than Mr. Cagle.

In the annals of political Big Lies, at least in Georgia, there are few bigger, more outrageous or with more inexplicable staying power than this intelligence-insulting "people vs. mussels" routine
with the possible exception of the idea that Atlanta’s virus-like spread has no effect whatever on the supply of and demand for water.

The Flat Earth Society makes a more credible case.

If you want a revealing snapshot of everything that’s out of whack with the politics, economics and ethics of water allocation in this region, this might be it.

Draw your own conclusions about the audience and venue for the lieutenant governor’s remarks
a Hall County Chamber of Commerce breakfast at the Gainesville Civic Center. But whatever your inferences about those circumstances, we’re left with yet another "Georgia" official acting as an unapologetic apologist for a region dubbed "chronically overdeveloped" (by the Atlanta Business Chronicle, no less), at the expense of the rest of the state he supposedly represents.

This is not to pick on Cagle. He didn’t create the water crisis, or author the state leadership’s ingrained and infuriating disdain for everybody outside the mutating Atlanta sprawl zone. If anything, Cagle is a smart and thoughtful man who has taken some responsible positions on water issues, particularly on the spectacularly bad idea of selling and trading water rights. "We could not allow an open market for buying and selling water permits," Cagle, then a state senator, told U.S. Water News in 2003. "Any type of private market for water is a very, very scary road to embrace. The resource is too important."

The obvious question now: Too important to whom, and for what?

The last thing this crisis needs is for anybody, especially someone of Cagle’s rank and stature, to be buying into (or trying to sell) more tired Republican growth-whatever boilerplate about mussel-huggers holding water, and by implication the state’s health and prosperity, hostage.

But that’s not the worst of it. The "people vs. mussels" myth, as persistent and annoying and intellectually dishonest as it is, is a minor irritant compared to the truly jaw-dropping claim, suggested first by the governor and now echoed by the second-highest-ranking official in the state, that growth isn’t part of the problem.

Oh, really? Well, let’s see: We have a finite resource
water expected to provide for a population of infinite, or at least indefinite, increase. Seems a guy named Malthus weighed in on that problem quite a few years before Georgia politicians learned whatever it is they think they know about Chattahoochee River wildlife.

Forget mussels; we should be less concerned about state leadership’s grasp of marine biology than about its comprehension of simple arithmetic.

Here are some numbers: There are hundreds of thousands of us down here
a quarter-million, give or take, in the Columbus area alone -- who aren’t aquatic invertebrates and who need, and are fundamentally entitled to, adequate water.

Apparently that math isn’t in "Georgia’s" best interest.

If somewhere down the road the Chattahoochee Valley becomes popularly known as "The Gulch" so another horde of carpetbagger developers could throw up a few thousand more ugly strings of apartments along the I-85 gridlock corridor, we can all take great comfort in the knowledge that people mattered more than mollusks.

Some people, anyway.

 

The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer

 

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