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State Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome, is among those recognized in the Georgia Water Coalition’s Clean 13 report for 2021.

The annual report, released Tuesday, highlights people and entities “whose extraordinary efforts have led to cleaner rivers, stronger communities and a more sustainable future for Georgians.

Jesse Demonbreun-Chapman, CRBI

Jesse Demonbreun-Chapman

“With extreme weather events raging across the globe, sea levels rising on the Georgia coast, and plastic pollution overwhelming our state’s waterways and coast, it seems the environmental problems we face are insurmountable,” said Jesse Demonbreun-Chapman, executive director of the Rome-based Coosa River Basin Initiative.

“But, the entities recognized in this report provide us hope,” he continued. “Their actions are directly addressing these threats and leading us toward a more resilient and sustainable future in every corner of the state.”

The Clean 13 for this year are:

Welch and Hufstetler

Hufstetler and Rep. Andy Welch, R-Locust Grove, took up the cause championed by the late Rep. Jay Powell of Camilla and during the 2020 General Assembly session successfully secured legislation that restores funding for the state’s environmental trust funds.

Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome

Sen. Chuck Hufstetler

The legislation initiated a constitutional amendment on the 2020 ballot that was overwhelmingly supported by voters. During the 2021 legislation session, measures were adopted that will ensure that fees collected for environmental cleanups will be used for that purpose.

“I think its important for the trust of government that we make laws that say these funds will be used here and they actually are used here and I think that’s part of my role as finance chairman of the senate,” Hufstetler said during a press conference with Georgia Water Coalition on Tuesday.

Hanwha QCELLS North America

In 2019, Dalton became home to the largest manufacturer of solar panels in the Western Hemisphere with the opening of Hanwha QCELLS facility which annually produces enough panels to generate 1.7 gigawatts (GW) of electricity. QCELLS chose the location, in part, because of the need to be close to the growing solar market in Georgia and the Southeast.

Athens-Clarke County

Athens-Clarke County has embraced clean energy by adopting a goal of making its entire community powered 100 percent by renewable energy sources by 2050. To do this, the city-county commission adopted an innovative funding mechanism to generate the cash needed to reach the goal. Now, solar arrays are popping up on fire station roofs and low-income neighborhoods are getting water and energy efficiency assistance.

Blue Bird Bus Corporation

In Ft. Valley, the Blue Bird Bus Corporation has become the country’s leading manufacturer of electric school buses and expects that by 2030 nearly 100 percent of its sales will be for electric and alternative fuel buses. By eliminating greenhouse gas emissions, this trend will lead to cleaner air for today’s school children and a more livable world for future generations.

City of Savannah

In Savannah where visitors are often seen strolling the streets of the entertainment and historic districts with drinks in hand, the city partnered with local restaurants and bars in on a pilot project to replace plastic to-go cups with infinitely-recyclable, Georgia-made aluminum cups. The pilot was so successful that additional restaurants are buying in and consumers are clamoring for the cups, taking them home as souvenirs rather than tossing them in trash cans or recycling bins.

City of South Fulton

In the City of South Fulton nestled along the Chattahoochee River, city leaders this year voted to make their municipality the first in Georgia to implement regulations prohibiting private businesses from using plastic bags. Other communities are watching and now following their lead.

Georgia Audubon and Southern Conservation Trust

Near Fayetteville, Georgia Audubon and the Southern Conservation Trust are working at the micro-level, showing how little changes add up to big impacts. The two groups are partnering at Sams Lake Bird Sanctuary to eliminate invasive aquatic and terrestrial plants and restore native plants. The project is a lesson in the interconnectivity of our natural systems. The native plants produce more insects that benefit the 138 bird species that live in or annually visit the 56-acre sanctuary of wetlands and wildlife.

Madison County Clean Power Coalition

In rural Northeast Georgia residents rallied together to fight pollution from two local biomass-to-energy plants. When residents discovered the facilities were chipping and burning creosote-soaked railroad ties, they took action. Within a year, this small group of determined activists had secured state legislation banning the use of creosote-soaked wood at power generation facilities and held the polluting entities accountable.

Mitchell County 4-H

In partnership with the Stripling Irrigation Research Park in Camilla, Mitchell County 4-H sponsors an annual 4-H20 camp to teach youth about the importance of the state’s water resources. Since 2008, hundreds of children have participated, and now “graduates” of 4-H20 Camp are becoming science and water management leaders.

Dr. Dionne Hoskins‑Brown

Dr. Dionne Hoskins-Brown of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has become an advocate for Georgia’s coastal waters and through a NOAA partnership with Savannah State University, Georgia’s first public university for African Americans, is working to diversify NOAA’s workforce. During the past 20 years, Hoskins-Brown’s work has made the historically black university one of the nation’s top producers of marine science graduates—some of whom are now working for NOAA studying how climate change is impacting fisheries and coastal communities.

Patagonia

When it comes to supporting environmental advocacy and water protection efforts in Georgia, perhaps there is no business as committed to change as Patagonia. The iconic brand’s retail store in Atlanta funds local environmental organizations, donates products to these groups and provides employee volunteers for multiple causes. Since 1996, the store has invested $1.3 million in local environmental organizations.

White Oak Pastures

Will Harris and his team at White Oak Pasture’s regenerative land management practices are proving their ability to sequester as much carbon as is produced by the livestock raised on the farm. The beef raised on the farm in Southwest Georgia’s Bluffton community has a carbon footprint 111 percent lower than conventionally raised beef. The businesses’ farming practices are protecting local creeks and improving the land.

Jim Wright

In Southwest Georgia’s Lee County, code enforcement officer Jim Wright has become known for his work to clean Kinchafoonee and Muckalee creeks and make them accessible for residents and visitors for boating and fishing. Leading community cleanups, Boy Scout projects and development of public access points along the creeks, the Lee County employee and his community have transformed these waterways.

The Georgia Water Coalition, a consortium of more than 285 conservation and environmental organizations, hunting and fishing groups, businesses and faith-based organizations, publishes the Clean 13 list each year as a call to action from state leaders and citizens.

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