Chattahoochee Riverkeeper celebrates 30 years

Published 10:25 am Thursday, March 7, 2024

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The conservation organization, the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper (CRK) celebrated its 30th anniversary on Wednesday. The organization was started in 1994, to protect the river, its lakes and watersheds. 

In their announcement newsletter of the milestone, CRK co-founders, Laura Turner Seydel and Rutherford Seydel stated, “Since 1994, our dedicated and diverse Board of Directors and Advisory Board has guided CRK in its transformation from a scrappy group of paddlers, scientists, anglers and environmental activists to a respected, but still scrappy, organization that has won many victories for the people and wildlife in the Chattahoochee River Basin.”

Henry Jacobs, Deputy Director of CRK, who works at West Point Lake continues to pursue the organization’s mission. 

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“[CRK] started back in 1994… the city of Atlanta, it was cheaper for them to pay the fines and to let their sewer system overflow, rather than spend a lot of money to rebuild and repair the system and to meet the needs of a growing city,” explained Jacobs.

Jacobs adds that CRK was started as a watchdog organization to hold Atlanta accountable. The organization along with the support of communities downstream from the Georgia capitol won a $2 billion lawsuit in the early 2000s, making sure the city takes steps to protect and preserve the river. 

After the lawsuit, it continues to keep Atlanta and other communities along the river accountable, while expanding expertise in water monitoring, education and advocacy. Currently, CRK has 18 full-time employees and thousands of volunteers.

“When we talk about celebrating 30 years and looking ahead to the next 30, it’s really that idea that we’re reaching as many kids as possible and helping them understand where their source of water is and why it’s important to protect places like West Point Lake and the [Chattahoochee] river. 

He credits the floating classroom program as a highlight of the past 30 years. It started on Lake Lanier and will be coming to West Point Lake as well. Over 100,000 students and teachers have been aboard the classroom to learn about the Chattahoochee.

Jacobs said the key to continued preservation is getting people on the water and experiencing the river in all its glory. To celebrate 30 years the organization is hosting three paddle outings, near the headwaters of the river, just south of Atlanta, and near Franklin, Georgia. 

Jacobs is especially proud that the organization has team members all along the river, making sure communities and individuals are taking care of the resource.

“What started as a small organization in a big city, now we have people who work, who live and work in communities up and down the river, including here in West Georgia and East Alabama,” Jacobs said.

He hopes to work more within Alabama as CRK continues to grow.

“I would encourage people, if they see something or they smell something on the river or the creeks to reach out to us, because oftentimes, we are easier to get in touch with than some governmental body,” said Jacobs. “If people want to report the issue to us, we’ll make sure that it gets heard and seen by the correct authorities who are going to ultimately fix a broken pipe or a construction site that’s spewing mud into the river.”