THE PULSE news briefs What’s Happening in Georgia’s Engineering Community Political PULSE by Michael “Sully” Sullivan President & CEO, ACEC Georgia ACEC Georgia’s political advocacy role doesn’t end when the Georgia General Assembly session is gaveled to a close. Fighting to protect and improve the business and regulatory climate for the engineering industry and for our member firm clients demands year-round engagement at every level of government. Whether the battle is procurement or permitting at the local level or flying to Washington DC to meet with our Congressmen and Senators to advocate on water issues or transportation funding, we will be involved. Our goal is to ensure that the voice of the business of engineering is heard loud and clear at the federal, state and local levels. and Development Act of 2014 (WRRDA), an effort that was successfully thwarted by Georgia’s Congressional delegation in the final version of the bill. Undaunted, Senator Richard Shelby (R-Alabama), a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, recently inserted language into the FY 2016 Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill that would withhold funding for any Corps study related to water allocation in the ACT basin; that is, until the Governors of both Alabama and Georgia agree to participate in the study, as well as agree to the terms of the study process to be undertaken, effectively giving Alabama veto power over any Corps study. In June, I met with Senator Johnny Isakson and Senator David Perdue in Washington DC and they assured me that they are going to do everything they can to ensure that this provision is removed before the Senate passes this appropriations bill. The Army Corps of Engineers recently released an updated drought contingency and water control manual for the ACT basin (which Georgia has filed suit to challenge). It is also working on the updated manual for the ACF basin (the one Florida is most concerned with), which is still subject to administrative and judicial review (one or more of the three states will also file suit once the ACF manual is released this summer). On June 9th, Governor Nathan Deal travelled to Florida for his most recent private meeting with Florida Governor Rick Scott. That meeting followed Governor Deal’s March meeting with Alabama Governor Robert Bentley. WATER WARS Since 1989, Georgia has been fighting a multi-front war with Florida and Alabama over how water in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (ACF) and Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa (ACT) basins will be allocated between the three states from and into which these rivers flow. Florida’s shellfish industry and Alabama’s agricultural and power generating interests have tried to use the courts to restrict the amount of water that could be allocated to metro Atlanta – a result that would also (and perhaps intentionally) constrain the growth and economic development of the Atlanta region. For most of the decades-long battle, discussions were focused on whether Lake Lanier could lawfully be used for water supply at all. In 2011, that question was decisively answered in Georgia’s favor in an 11th Circuit Court of Appeals decision that held water supply to be an authorized use for Lake Lanier. Since then, Alabama and Florida have focused their maneuvering on trying to restrict the Army Corps of Engineers’ ability to decide how water should be allocated among the various interests. A favorite tactic of Alabama’s United States Senators has been to insert restrictive language into congressional legislation that would tie the Corps’ hands. Previously, Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama) led an effort to insert damaging language into the Water Resources Reform 10 ENGINEERING GEORGIA FEDERAL TRANSPORTATION FUNDING As I mentioned previously, I was in Washington DC in June for meetings on Capitol Hill with the members of our Georgia Congressional delegation [including Representative Rob Woodall (R-Georgia) newly appointed member of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee] to discuss next steps in the effort to fully fund the Federal Highway Trust Fund, which is set to run out of funding (again) sometime this summer after the current two-month, short-term funding patch expires. These meetings were very productive and I came away encouraged by the level of commitment on this issue from our delegation members. For example, all of our Georgia Congressional delegation members voted for the most recent funding measure. Contrast that with the vote for MAP-21 (the current funding bill set to expire), where only two of our Republican House members voted in favor.