URGENT UPDATE ON SB 346!

Contact Your Senator and Representative today : A Call to Action.

GCPA and SGA could use your help. There is new proposed legislation that would seek to bypass Georgia laws in place to locate, study, and protect archaeological and other natural resources. A copy of the proposed text can be viewed HERE and a copy of the 1991 Act can be viewed HERE.

The Georgia Senate is considering (SB 346) in the coming days. Representatives of SGA and other concerned citizens have spoken before the Senate Transportation Committee but not all the opposition present was allowed to speak. If the bill cannot be stopped in the Senate, it might be able to be amended and we are working on potential changes should the bill reach the House of Representatives. The following joint statement by the SGA and GCPA has been prepared and released to several media outlets:

 

JOINT PRESS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – 2/25/2016

The Society for Georgia Archaeology (SGA) and
Georgia Council of Professional Archaeologists (GCPA)

The SGA and GCPA are deeply concerned that Senate Bill 346, which proposes to exempt state-funded road projects under $100 million from review under the Georgia Environmental Policy Act (GEPA), was favorably reported to the Senate by the Transportation Committee. The SGA and GCPA believe that this bill, in its current form, is ambiguous, arbitrary, and threatens Georgia’s irreplaceable archaeological sites. For the sake of our shared Georgia heritage, it is vital that the Georgia Assembly either amend or table this bill.

The GEPA ensures state agencies like the GDOT take environmental effects into account during government undertakings. Exempting all road building projects costing less than $100 million is an exceedingly arbitrary way to enact changes to this legislation. It is possible to improve transportation program delivery while simultaneously protecting Georgia’s history.

Archaeological sites and burials can only be protected if they are identified, recorded, and reported. American Indian sites and graves, unmarked historic African-American cemeteries, and Civil War Battlefields are just some examples of important places that go unseen until documented through archaeological studies. Ground-disturbing road projects are increasingly being built with state funds, rather than federal funds. The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) will no longer apply to these projects, leaving GEPA as the only law in place that provides a mechanism for surveying a project area to look for these cultural resources. Although there are other state laws in place that protect already identified historic properties and cemeteries (OCGA 12-3-55 and 36-72-1), these do not offer a mechanism for identifying these sites. GEPA is the only method that takes into account the identification of cultural resources prior to state undertakings, and it is therefore the best way to ensure a new road does not bulldoze through an undiscovered site or grave.

GEPA does not regulate private construction or put any burdens on the state’s private businesses. GEPA simply ensures state government undertakings are done conscientiously. It protects environmental resources such as water quality, ecology, history, and archaeology. We think the public deserves to hear more about SB 346. We ask those concerned about our collective Georgia history to raise awareness, to follow the progress of the bill through the Georgia Assembly, and to contact their representatives.

WE NEED YOUR SUPPORT.

Let the legislature know the that public opposes the bill because it would bypass laws in place to ensure studies are undertaken on state funded transportation projects in order to protect natural resources like archaeology sites. The passage of this bill would have national implications for cultural resources. The unique cultural resources of the state national treasures.  It threatens to impact small businesses in Georgia. The legislation also directly threatens environmental resources overall, as it would exempt studies for environmental effects reports for state funded transportation projects. Let your voice be heard and contact the committee to share your stories and concerns. You can contact your Senator by consulting this list and your Representative consulting this list. It’s not too soon to begin contacting Representatives in the House, particularly the members of the House Transportation Committee. Please use the contact information below:

House Transportation Committee:
Chairman:
Christian Coomer (District 14), christian.coomer@house.ga.gov

Vice Chairman:
Valerie Clark (District 101), vclark123@charter.net

Secretary:
Bubber Epps (District 144), bubber.epps@house.ga.gov

Members:
Ballinger, Mandi L. (District 23), mandi.ballinger@house.ga.gov
Benton, Tommy (District 31), tommy.benton@house.ga.gov
Bryant, Bob (District 162), bob.bryant@house.ga.gov
Burns, Jon G. (District 159), jon.burns@house.ga.gov
Carson, John (District 46), john.carson@house.ga.gov
Deffenbaugh, John (District 1), john.deffenbaugh@house.ga.gov
Dempsey, Katie M. (District 13), katie.dempsey@house.ga.gov
Gardner, Pat (District 57), pat@patgardner.org
Harrell, Brett, (District 106), brett@voteharrell.com
Hitchens, Bill (District 161), bill.hitchens@house.ga.gov
Jones, Sheila (District 53), sheila.jones@house.ga.gov
Jordan, Darryl (District 77), darryl.jordan@house.ga.gov
McCall, Tom (District 33), tommccall@elberton.net
Nimmer, Chad (District 178), chad.nimmer@house.ga.gov
Prince, Brian (District 127), brian.prince@house.ga.gov
Rutledge, Dale (District 109), dale.rutledge@house.ga.gov
Rynders, Ed (District 152), erynders@bellsouth.net
Setzler, Ed (District 35), ed.setzler@house.ga.gov
Sims, Barbara (District 123), barbara.sims@house.ga.gov
Taylor, Darlene K. (District 173), darlene.taylor@house.ga.gov
Waites, Keisha (District 60), keisha.waites@house.ga.gov
Watson, Sam (District 172), sam.watson@house.ga.gov
Williams, Al (District 168), al.williams@house.ga.gov