Employed as: Other, non-employee, for N/A
Posted: 02 October 2015
Atlanta Journal Constitution 9/24/15
"New North Georgia Port Threatens the Environment"
The fanfare surrounding the recent surprise announcement of the Georgia
Ports Authority’s new inland port was reminiscent of ceremonies held by
cities winning the bid to host the Olympics or Super Bowl. Even though
the temperature in Chatsworth was in the mid-90s, the promoters dragged
a table onto the shade-less lawn of the Murray County Courthouse for the
signing of the memorandum of understanding to take advantage of the
photogenic backdrop of the Cohutta Mountains .
Among the perspiring dignitaries seated at the table were Gov. Nathan
Deal, the executive vice president of CSX railroad and the county’s
sole Commissioner, Brittany Pittman. “Twenty-five years from now you
are going to look back in pride at what took place today,” Gov. Deal
said. The CSX vice president said, “the port will provide
cost-effective options for environmentally friendly transportation
services.”Asked about the impact of increased truck traffic,
commissioner Pittman said, “All the due diligence has been done”.
The executive director of the Cohutta Springs Conference Center, a
mountain retreat and youth camp owned by the Seventh-Day Adventists
Church, was a smiling observer of the festivities. He said a CSX
representative told him the future port’s exact location would be “five
or six miles up the road” from the center. A few days later, he learned
that its actual location was to be approximately 600 yards upwind of
the resort’s boundary. He was no longer smiling.
The inland port will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and is
projected to handle 50,000 shipping containers the first year,
increasing to 100,000 within 10 years. It’s also promised to be a
catalyst for attracting many more truck-laden businesses.
Stacked shipping containers will block the viewshed of the only U.S.
Highway 411 leg of the “Cohutta-Chattahoochee Scenic By-way” at the
road’s closest approach to the Chattahoochee National Forest. The low
rumbling sounds from locomotives, warning beepers on equipment, train
cars coupling, trucks hitching to trailers, and the slamming about of
containers will be audible for miles in all directions. Bright lights
will illuminate the sky 365 nights a year, and the trucks, locomotives
and other equipment will produce a perpetual cloud of toxic diesel
emissions that will be carried by the prevailing upsloping winds into
the highest elevations of the ecologically fragile Cohutta Mountains.
The Cohutta Wilderness, a “Class I Wilderness,” and the largest
mountain wilderness east of the Mississippi, is just five miles
downwind, and the contiguous national forest is just one mile downwind.
Together, they form the watershed for the upper Conasauga River, equally
renowned by trout fishermen and biologist for its pristine waters and
biodiversity. The river is the habitat for a dozen endangered or
threatened species, and through the efforts of numerous businesses,
non-profits and environmental groups, it was recently named as
Georgia’s only “Outstanding Natural Resource Waters.”
Little Sumac Creek, near its confluence with Big Sumac Creek, is the
southern boundary of the port site. Leakage of toxic petro-fluids from
trucks and equipment, combined with the inevitable accidental spillages
of other toxins, will end up in runoff that will flow downstream into
the Conasauga River within the habitat of the Conasauga Logperch, an
endangered species found nowhere else in the world.
Shipping containers — principal conveyances for invasive species — will
be opened in the shadow of Grassy Mountain, home to 550 species of flora
and fauna. Grassy Mountain is littered with the ancient trunks of the
fabled American Chestnut tree, killed by a fungus brought from Japan at
the turn of the century. The still-standing skeletons of Canada Hemlock
trees, ecologically important icons, are the more recent victims of an
insect brought from Asia.
Inadequately inspected containers, potential delivery systems for
terrorists’ weapons of war, will be unloaded a few hundred feet from a
community park with ballfields, a walking track and playground. The
port site is directly across the highway from a century-old church and
there are numerous nearby residences.
After jobs creation, the port’s most frequently touted selling points
are its positive environmental impact and relief for Atlanta’s traffic
congestion. The port, which will create 20 mediocre jobs, will be
located over 20 miles from I-75. The additional heavy-truck traffic
will create havoc on the area’s connecting two-lane country roads, but
will hardly be missed in Atlanta.
This illogical site selection will negatively impact the health of the
area’s residents, erode their property values and present the potential
for catastrophic damages to some of our most valuable natural resources.
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