Boothe eyes local impact of cuts

Published 7:29 pm Friday, April 22, 2011

Rep. Alan Boothe will be watching closely the fate of a local watershed management agency when the House of Representatives begins debate Tuesday on the general fund budget.

“There have been several agencies that have been zeroed out,” said Boothe, R-Troy. “Until we get through with debate I won’t know which ones, however, some agencies have been zeroed out because of the budget crisis that we’re in.”

According to Boothe, at this point it is a “wait and see” with regard to seeing which agencies get axed from the general fund.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

“I anticipate a lot of cuts to take place as a result of the current political conditions of the state and the effects it will have on the general fund,” Boothe said.

One particular agency Boothe said had been zeroed out of the budget is the Choctawhatchee, Pea and Yellow Rivers Watershed Management Authority.

“We’re trying to get it put back in, but it has been zeroed out in the current budget form,” Boothe said. “We’re going to work to try to get that reinstated in some form because it’s important to have that watershed authority functioning, not in dry times, but in wet times.”

CPYR Watershed Management Authority Executive Director Barbara Gibson said the watershed is a full-state agency and has been in business for almost 20 years.

“The Alabama Legislature passed a law in 1991 to create watershed management authorities,” Gibson said. “All water drains into some body of water. The watershed is where, in a particular area, the water sheds. We manage the Choctawhatchee, Pea and Yellow rivers watersheds down here in Southeast Alabama, which is 2,328,000 acres.”

Gibson said the intent of the Legislature when it passed the law in 1991 was to ensure that all 14 of the major watersheds in the state of Alabama would be managed by individual state agencies.

“The beauty of that was there would not be one state-wide umbrella organization,” Gibson said. “You would have a state agency located in those 14 major watersheds that would work just within those watershed boundaries and would learn everything about all the water resources in those watersheds, collect all of the data, address all of the water-related issues that came up at any time and would implement educational programs to teach people how to conserve water.”

Gibson said the various watershed management authorities have always been up-to-date regarding any water-related issues within their watersheds and the watershed authority located here in Pike County has been the only watershed established since the creation of the 1991 law.

The CPYR watershed authority continues to be involved with water-related projects in the surrounding area.

“We’re currently working on a big reservoir project over in the Wiregrass area because of a serious, critical, drinking water supply problem,” Gibson said. “Our agency operates the only basin-wide flood warning system in the state of Alabama.”

Gibson said the Corps of Engineers did a “massive study” in the early 1990s and concluded that this area of the state experiences the most damaging and serious flooding in the state.

Gibson said the CPYR Watershed Management Authority is important to the Pike County area especially in regards to the amount of work the agency has done in studying water resources and teaching adequate water conservation.

Although Gibson maintains the importance of the watershed authority, she said she realizes the reasons such cuts have been made.

“All agencies have gotten cuts, because we’re in bad, bad, financial times right now,” Gibson said. “We have some hope of getting a little bit of funding and being able to continue on, but it will not be anywhere near enough funding for us to do the amount of work we have done in the past. But, hopefully that will increase once the state gets out of these bad financial times.”