Progress report

In recent years, the longstanding support for environmental quality in Athens has been significantly strengthened. 

Clean energy policy. The Commission and I have cemented a formal policy of transition to clean energy for all of Clarke County, with buildings supported by clean energy by 2035, and the vehicle fleet (including heavy vehicles) following by 2050.

Envionmental preservation. We have achieved the strongest tree canopy documented for any U.S. city of 100,000 or greater, owing to our protection of riparian buffers, along with preservation of key natural areas such as Rock and Shoals and Tallassee Woods. This means that we are more resilient in the face of climate change and the heat-island effect does not impact us as heavily as other communities.

Vehicle emission reductions. With the coming residential redevelopment incentives overlaid with our extension of Athens Transit routes, we will further reduce vehicle emissions and make optimal use of resources. 

Taking care of future water needs. In an action that will bear fruit for the next hundred years, ACC government purchased a quarry last year for future water supply. When the rivers are low, the water stored in the quarry will keep Athens homes and businesses fluid. Rock mining in the quarry will continue for the next ten years, digging it out to a volume that in 2030 will rival the size of Bear Creek Reservoir. After 2030, we will fill it with water and make Athens far more drought proof than it was when we were precariously close to running out of water in the 2007, 2011 and 2016 droughts. A component of the new reservoir will be an innovative system for using recycled, non-potable water instead of potable water for industrial processes and for cooling decreases the demand for potable water across the system, thus making Athens-Clarke more drought resilient.

Water quality improvements. As we enhance water quantity, we are devoted to water quality improvements that will be realized via upgrades to our two largest water reclamation facilities to further reduce nutrient loads to the Middle and North Oconee Rivers.  Our plants already have many years of perfect compliance with the federal Clean Water Act.  This will make the plants’ performance even better.

Next steps

Rural septic support system. One additional step we must take is to support large lot and rural residents with a septic support system to more consistently test septic tanks and groundwater to ensure that their homes are safe, and our creeks and rivers are not negatively impacted. Support for businesses and homeowners. We will work with business owners and households to ensure that energy efficiency upgrades and clean energy additions are available and accessible via additional rounds of the “Solarize Athens” program, and additional funding to upgrade existing homes.

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