Former President Jimmy Carter receives a kayak from GKF E-mail
Friday, 16 October 2009 19:25

jimmy carter
Randy "RiverPirate" Vining, GKF Exec Board Member and Ocean Kayak Pro Staff Angler presents President Carter with an Ocean Kayak Drifter on behalf of the Georgia Kayak Fishing club.

Oglethorpe — The fourth running of Paddle Georgia ended in this small south Georgia farming community Friday night with a former president and a renewed cause.

President Jimmy Carter, whose Plains home is about 30 miles down the road, rallied a new generation of environmentalists and river rats to fight any effort to build dams on the Flint River. His audience of 200 included more than 100 paddlers who had just completed a week-long, 95-mile trip down the Flint from Thomaston.

The Flint has over 200 miles of free-flowing river with only two small dams on its length. The Flint starts as a spring under the runways at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and winds through southwest Georgia where it meets up with the Chattahoochee River at the Georgia-Alabama-Florida border.

Started in 2005, Paddle Georgia has also taken canoeists and kayakers down the Chattahoochee, Etowah and Ocmulgee rivers.

This week's finale, a fish fry at an old junior high school, was also the stage to announce the formation of the Flint Riverkeeper, the seventh river protection group in Georgia formed under the national umbrella of the Waterkeeper Alliance. The group, started by community leaders and landowners along the Flint, was galvanized by talk of resurrecting dam projects on the Flint to increase water supplies.

Carter, wearing blue jeans and a button-down denim Habitat for Humanity shirt, talked about his own successful fight in the 1970s against plans by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Congress to build three dams on the Flint. One dam would have been built at Sprewell Bluff, now a state park and popular fishing spot.

Carter's unlikely opposition propelled the little known Georgia governor onto the national scene as an environmental crusader willing to go against Washington's power brokers.

"It was unprecedented back then for anybody to be against a dam," Carter said. "The opposition was just a bunch of weirdo environmentalists."

Dams mean construction jobs, high-priced lakefront development and recreational dollars, he said.

His presidency was full of controversy, from giving back the Panama Canal ("I still get ugly letters every month about the Panama Canal") to normalizing relations with China, but Carter said killing dams were his most controversial actions in the White House. He said fighting against the dams again, three decades later, could be equally tough.

In recent months, U.S. Reps. Nathan Deal (R-Gainesville) and Lynn Westmoreland (R-Grantville), have expressed some interest in building dams along the Flint to create large water-supply reservoirs like Allatoona and West Point.

"There will be tremendous pressure here to go along with these congressmen that somehow think it'll solve the water supply problems and allow people to sprinkle their lawns seven days a week," Carter said.

 

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