– July 12, 2023 –

Climate plan

At Georgia’s first statewide conference on climate change in 2016, organizers at the Department of Natural Resources eschewed what some Georgia officials considered a politically charged phrase: “climate change.” They instead called the conference “Prepare, Respond and Adapt: Is Georgia Climate Ready?”

In the seven intervening years of increasingly hot temperatures, including last week’s record-breaking worldwide average temperatures, Georgia continued to avoid facing head on the issue of fossil-fuel driven climate change. For example, as of December, Georgia was not among the 33 states with formal climate action plans, according to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions. But that’s about to change, as Emily Jones of WABE/Grist reports.

Georgia is taking advantage of the 2022 federal Inflation Reduction Act, which includes $3 million for each state to make a climate- pollution reduction plan. In what the plan’s manager calls a “happy collision,” Georgia will be focusing on electrifying transportation, the state’s biggest source of climate-warming pollution, at the same time as electric vehicle manufacturers are building massive poduction facilities here.

Officials participate in the ceremonial groundbreaking of Hyundai Motor Group’s planned electric vehicle plant in Bryan County. Credit: Benjamin Payne/GPB News

Smart water meters

Also now adopting a more modern approach is Savannah’s Utility Billing Department. The city is installing 10,000 so-called smart water meters that will transmit billing data to residents in real time and promote water conservation, The Current’s Kailey Cota reports. 

The initial upgrades were approved by City Council, using $5.26 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding, and are expected to bring more accurate bills to customers who frequently have complained about variable costs for water. Customers will also have the option to download an app, called EyeOnWater, to track their water usage throughout the billing cycle. 

The switch to smart meters for all 80,000 meters in Savannah is expected take about seven years.

Glynn County has had smart water meters since 2004, and is now replacing the first batch. Georgia Power installed smart electric meters statewide from 2007-2014.

A meter technician installs a new automatic water meter in a Savannah yard. Credit: Courtesy of Saja Aures

Ogeechee pollution

The Ogeechee River is already bracing for the effects of development as Hyundai builds its metaplant in the basin. Last week Georgia regulators announced proposed limits, called total maximum daily loads, for inputs of fecal coliform bacteria into sections of the river they have determined are already impaired. Fecal coliform can come from wild or domestic mammals or birds but can also be a sign of leaking septic or sewerage facilities.

Ogeechee Riverkeeper Damon Mullis called the notice “bad news, because now we have more impaired streams.

“Unfortunately, TMDLs just highlight the problem, but really provide no guidance or money on how to resolve the issues,” he wrote in an email. “A Watershed Management Plan will have to be developed for each stream segment for it to qualify for restoration funding.”

A copy of the TMDLs are available online on the EPD TMDL webpage, under the Proposed TMDL section: https://epd.georgia.gov/watershed-protection-branch/total-maximum-daily-loadings. To provide comment on the proposal, email before 5 p.m. Aug. 18 to EPD.Comments@dnr.ga.gov. Include the words “TMDL Comments” in the subject line.

Ogeechee Riverkeeper Science and Policy Manager Kris Howard sets up a water quality monitoring station in the Ogeechee River.
Ogeechee Riverkeeper Science and Policy Manager Kris Howard sets up a water quality monitoring station in the Ogeechee River. Credit: Mary Landers/The Current

Also noted

• Vogtle Unit 3 had to be shut down on Sunday afternoon, operators reported to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The new reactor is in its final testing stage before it can deliver power to the grid. Already more than seven years overdue and billions over budget, it “scrammed when 45 percent power was reached due to a problem with the reactor pumps that caused low coolant flow,” tweeted Edwin Lyman, director of nuclear power safety at the Union of Concerned Scientists. The reactor was still at zero power Tuesday.

• The Bulloch County Board of Commissioners has contracted to buy land on which it intends to drill one of four wells to supply water to Hyundai Motor Group’s massive metaplant, the Statesboro Herald reports. Bulloch is expected to own two wells and Bryan County to own the other two wells to provide water to the electric vehicle and battery manufacturing complex, projected to open in 2025 and eventually employ 8,100 people. The four wells are expected to supply 1.5 million gallons of water per day to the Hyundai plant. For comparison, Tybee’s permit allows that city to withdraw .916 million gallons of groundwater per day.

• Georgia Southern biology professor Christine Bedore lent her expertise to National Geographic’s ‘When Sharks Attack 360’, now available on Hulu. Bedore studies the sensory world of sharks and octopuses including color vision and bioelectric field production. “As a scientist that studies shark color vision, I’m often approached with the question, ‘who cares if sharks can see color?’” Bedore notes in a GSU press release. “As you’ll see, the ability to see color could help sharks identify prey, predators or other objects.”

• And finally, a meditation on bird rebellion. Researchers from Naturalis Biodiversity Center and the Natural History Museum Rotterdam collected nests made from anti-nesting spikes magpies and crows removed from buildings. They describe the birds’ ingenuity as “an ultimate adaptation to life in the city,” noting that one nest seemed to use the spikes as a defense against other birds.

A magpie nest made of spikes meant to repel birds Credit: Auke-Florian Hiemstra

If you have feedback, questions, concerns, or just like what you see, let us know at thecurrentga@gmail.com.

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Mary Landers is a reporter in Coastal Georgia focusing on the environment for The Current. It's a topic she covered for nearly 24 years at the Savannah Morning News, where she began and ended her time...