Flint River Conservation
Delta & Atlanta’s Airport Support the Initiative
The Flint River is part of the Apalachicola River system that drains areas of Georgia, Alabama, and Florida. The River is home to some of the greatest aquatic biodiversity in North America and also provides water and farmland for some of the region’s most productive farms. Much of the river overlies the Floridan aquifer, where continued overdraft of groundwater from the Flint River Basin puts at risk both natural ecosystems and local economies.
Delta Air Lines and Atlanta’s airport are joining forces as part of an initiative to support conservation projects on the Flint River, which starts just north of the airport – then flows under it. Georgia’s largest airline and biggest airport are contributing to the “Change the Course” initiative.
As part of the recent announcement John Laughter, Delta’s senior vice president of corporate safety, security and compliance said, “While Delta is proud to be an economic engine for the state, the Flint River sustains Georgia’s number one industry, agriculture.”
It would appear that the private eleemosynary action may be helping a dispute between Florida and Georgia. Florida blames the booming Atlanta metropolitan area and agriculture in Georgia for causing low river flows that have imperiled fisheries and requested that a court appointed Special Master mandate a cap.
There is no indication that the Delta and ATL participation is directly related in any airport project. Many, if not most, FAA-funded improvements compel a NEPA review. That process identifies any negative impacts to the environment and then seeks to mitigate that loss by defining mitigation, on a 3-to-1 basis, somewhere proximate to the airport project. All too often, these remediation projects involve a band aid funding of restoring some degraded wetland, for example. Rarely can a properly sized project be found which involves major improvement of the environment; so, it is not unusual for the EIS approved mitigation project to create a level of enhancement less than that the environmental advocates envisioned.
Wetland Mitigation Banking is a form of environmental market trading where wetlands are developed to create wetland credits, which can be sold to Sponsors of projects with unavoidable wetland impacts as mitigation. The “Change the Course” contributions by Delta and ATL should be recognized in some future NEPA review. Past good deeds, particularly done without the compulsion of NEPA, ought to be recognized in the next FAA EIS of an ATL program.
If this retroactive recognition is not already accepted by the FAA, CEQ, EPA, DOI and DOA, it would be a great initiative for the Trump Administration!