AP NEWS

Georgia editorial roundup

November 6, 2019

Recent editorials from Georgia newspapers:

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Nov. 6

The Brunswick News on citizens asking for zoning changes:

Overhauling the zoning ordinances in Glynn County is something that has been needed for a while to fix issues such as redundancies, complicated and outdated language, and other problems that have on occasion led some to challenge development rulings in court.

While past problems are the impetus for the change, zoning changes must consider what the future will look like.

That was the message delivered by many citizens that came out to a public hearing on the topic.

TSW, who the county has contracted with to help write the new zoning laws, held a public hearing about the report they issued in September outlining some key questions that would have be answered as part of the new ordinances. Those questions, which can be seen by clicking on “diagnostic report” at glynncounty.org/zoningupdate, included topics ranging from questions about building requirements and design standards to public notices, zoning variances and a host of other issues.

The topic that citizens emphasized at thes meeting was resiliency, particularly when it comes to the issue of sea-level rise. Many that spoke at the meeting expressed the need for the new regulations to factor in rising sea levels. Considering our spot on the coast, it is an important factor that should be examined when it comes to building new structures in Glynn County.

Other citizens also brought up key issues such as flooding from drainage issues, design standards for more attractive gateways, finding ways to help lower flood insurance rates and ways to spur economic development in the area.

We were impressed with the way citizens came to the meeting with a variety of issues that should be considered when the new laws are written. Public turnout for the hearing and the three open houses TSW held in October has shown there is a great interest in this topic. Even better news is that TSW is taking the feedback seriously.

Woody Giles, senior associate at TSW, said that they are working with “many minds” to update the zoning laws. That includes an environmental firm for those who are concerned about resiliency. TSW will update the commission on Nov. 19 and another open house is likely in February.

If you weren’t able to make the hearing and still want to share you concerns or feedback, you can do so by email at zoningupdate@glynncounty-ga.gov, by phone at 912-554-7428 or by mail at TSW, 1447 Peachtree St. NE Suite 850, Atlanta, GA 30309.

We encourage everyone to read the report and give TSW the feedback they need to help craft a zoning update that will stand the test of time.

Online: https://thebrunswicknews.com

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Nov. 3

The Valdosta Daily Times on immigrant workers in Georgia:

South Georgia depends on foreign-born workers.

Many of those workers are fully “documented.”

Some are not.

It takes both to meet the demands of growers who simply would not be able to harvest without them.

Unauthorized workers are not causing problems for local enforcement agencies.

People may make racist comments about Mexicans, but they sure don’t mind purchasing vegetables picked by the hard-working immigrants.

Valdosta and Lowndes County may not be regarded as what people call a sanctuary community, but top cops have told us there is simply no need to make rounding up and deporting immigrant workers a priority.

Perhaps other parts of the country have experienced higher incidents of crime directly associated with illegal immigrants but locally it just has not been the case.

Immigration is a complicated issue with no easy fix.

We remind our readers about a 2016 study by the Pew Research Center, the number of unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. has stabilized in recent years after decades of rapid growth.

The Pew study showed:

- There were 11.1 million unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. in 2014, a total unchanged from 2009 and accounting for 3.5% of the nation’s population. The number of unauthorized immigrants peaked at 12.2 million in 2007, when this group was 4% of the U.S. population.

- The U.S. civilian workforce included 8 million unauthorized immigrants in 2014, accounting for 5% of those who were working or were unemployed and looking for work, according to new Pew Research Center estimates.

- Mexicans made up 52% of all unauthorized immigrants in 2014, though their numbers had been declining in recent years. There were 5.8 million unauthorized Mexican immigrants living in the U.S. that year, down from 6.4 million in 2009, according to the latest Pew Research Center estimates.

- Six states accounted for 59% of unauthorized immigrants in 2014: California, Texas, Florida, New York, New Jersey and Illinois. But some state populations had changed since 2009, despite the stable trend at the national level. From 2009-14, the unauthorized immigrant population decreased in seven states: Alabama, California, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Nevada and South Carolina. In all of them, the decline was due to a decrease in unauthorized immigrants from Mexico.

- A rising share of unauthorized immigrants have lived in the U.S. for at least a decade. About two-thirds of adults in 2014 had been in the U.S. at least that long, compared with 41% in 2005. A declining share of unauthorized immigrants have lived in the U.S. for less than five years - 14% of adults in 2014, compared with 31% in 2005. In 2014, unauthorized immigrant adults had lived in the U.S. for a median of 13.6 years, meaning that half had been in the country at least that long. Only 7% of unauthorized Mexican immigrants had been in the U.S. for less than five years in 2014, compared with 22% of those from all other countries.

Agriculture and construction account for the highest percentage of jobs being done by the undocumented workers, by far, with many operations heavily depending on the illegal immigrants for their workforce. The cost to farming operations in lost labor, not to mention the costs associated with locating, arresting and deporting illegal immigrants not committing other crimes, would be appreciable and a drain on local businesses and law enforcement.

Looking through arrest and offense reports, talking to the authorities and to farmers, it is obvious immigrant workers — documented and undocumented — are not a criminal element but rather tend to be hard-working men and women providing a valuable workforce.

While U.S. lawmakers are fixated on border security, the most immediate fix should be an overhaul of guest worker documentation that should be streamlined, fast-tracked and completely transparent.

Our farms, and many other industries, depend on it.

While a pathway to citizenship in the United States has proven to be a long and winding road, we believe the pathway to work should be swift and easy and the federal government should not place barriers between these honest workers and their employers.

Online: https://www.valdostadailytimes.com

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Nov. 2

The Augusta Chronicle on the need for the New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam:

For years and years, the Augusta area’s leadership could not possibly have been clearer: Local, state and federal officials from Georgia and South Carolina officials deeply value the New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam.

Since its completion in 1937, the structure has played an undeniable role in fostering growth and progress on both sides of the Savannah River. Its locks give crucial manmade control over the river’s precious upstream pool. Thanks to the lock and dam, that 13-mile pool stays at a water level reliable enough for industries to depend on the river’s water supply. Recreation and tourism happily flourishes.

And economic development? The cities of Augusta and North Augusta would not be what they are today if it weren’t for the lock and dam. It maintains a pool level so solid that both private- and public-sector investors in our area’s progress proudly stake their futures on it.

We drink from the river, for heaven’s sake.

The trusted water level of the Savannah River truly has lifted all boats.

Removing the lock and dam would sink all of that.

Such a frightening removal is being threatened again, and it unquestionably must be fought with our community’s full strength.

Out of several plans to build a spawning passage for an endangered species of fish, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced that it intended to move forward with its plan - perhaps its long-fixated mission - to get rid of the lock and dam.

So the beautifully blossoming successes of our community that we just mentioned, that are fed by the Lock and Dam’s indispensable river control? If the lock and dam goes away, the controllable water level goes away.

If that vanishes, all that progress would vanish too.

Why on Earth would the Corps want to do that? It’s a long story that won’t have a happy ending if the Corps gets its way.

When the Corps suggested the lock and dam’s removal in 1999, its primary reason was that the structure no longer served its past-stated mission of helping regulate commercial river traffic. The locks have been closed to barges since 1979.

But potentially transforming the river’s upstream pool into unnavigable mud flats was just as bad an idea then as it is now. As Augusta Port Authority Chairman Carl Nechtman said at the time: “This is what Moses was wishing for at the Red Sea. But that pool’s the life blood of the city marina. Without the lock and dam, the marina becomes a second thumb on a hand.?

Could you even imagine that? You don’t have to, thanks to actual demonstrations by the Corps. In past years it has conducted drawdowns - artificially manipulating water flow - as experiments to show the effect on the river area if the lock and dam were removed.

Results were just as expected. The pool dropped several feet. Boats stopped floating. Stumps and pilings emerged. Riverside property crumbled into what was left of the river. And that lasted just a few days. Picture that effect permanently.

Back then, Congress saved the lock and dam by requiring the structure’s repair, but those repairs and the money to fund them never completely materialized.

More than a decade after that, federal talks increased about deepening the harbor at the city of Savannah. Its port is the second-busiest in the country, and to keep it busy, it has to accommodate a new, massive class of cargo ship that requires deeper water.

The Savannah Harbor Expansion Project (SHEP) is expected to spoil the habitats of several species of fish - including the shortnose sturgeon. Environmental authorities concluded that the fish would need a new place to spawn upstream.

The Corps’ plan then became: Build an artificial passage for migrating sturgeon, and tear down the dam.

Predictably that sparked outrage in the Augusta area on both sides of the river, for all the logical reasons we’ve mentioned.

That outrage isn’t going away. If anything, it needs to be cranked up further.

Two key components in this evolving fight are a federal law, and the number 114.5.

Under the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act of 2016, the Corps says the dam must be removed and a fish passage built.

But supporters for saving the pool correctly point out that the WIIN Act requires the river’s water level to be kept at the same level it was when the law took effect. On Dec. 16, 2016, the pool’s level was 114.5 feet.

No engineering alternative for a fish passage presented by the Corps accommodates that water level. The least offensive alternative, known as Option 1-1,would repair the lock wall, keep the gates and build a fish passage on the Georgia side while dropping the pool only about 2 feet.

But the Corps instead picked the plan it likely wanted all along - Option 2-6d. That would remove the lock and dam and build a rock weir - basically a gently sloping pile of rocks that it hopes will attract sturgeons anxious to spawn. Unlike the lock and dam, you can’t control a pile of rocks. So what we would get out of 2-6d would be whatever Mother Nature decides - and as so many concerned officials and ordinary citizens have been maintaining all along, that would be disastrous.

As this is being written, at least one lawsuit, from the state of South Carolina, is imminent. A judge might determine precisely how the WIIN Act must be followed, or might recognize the authority of another government agency to assert control over the lock and dam’s future.

It shouldn’t be the Corps. It should be the stakeholders who benefit the most from what the lock and dam provides.

Try reviving a version of the locally-focused plan that authorities failed to execute years ago. Cede the lock and dam to local/state control, pay to repair it and pay to maintain it. Surely private and public entities, working with officials on both sides of the river, wouldn’t have trouble acquiring the funding to help move a plan forward.

We recently heard one idea that at least should be explored: If the lock and dam is repaired, equipment could be installed to generate hydroelectric power that then could be sold to help pay for future maintenance.

Coax enough hydroelectric power out of the dam to be sold to Georgia Power. That money could then help fund the repair and upkeep of the lock and dam. The important structure literally could pay for itself.

A delegation of Augusta-area leaders visited Washington, D.C., almost two weeks ago. They powerfully reiterated to Georgia’s and South Carolina’s lawmakers in Congress - on their own Capitol Hill turf - that losing the lock and dam isn’t an option. The combined will of the people in two states should not - cannot - be ignored. Our senators and representatives justifiably share our outrage.

The fight for the lock and dam’s future is far from over.

Online: https://www.augustachronicle.com