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Issue Brief: South Fulton Reservoir

May 2, 2010

The South Fulton reservoir on Bear Creek has gotten a lot of public play recently.  Back in 2009, the South Fulton Municipal Regional Water and Sewer Authority proposed a 440-acre pump-storage water supply reservoir capable of providing 16.4 million gallons per day (MGD) to three cities.  Legislators bounced House Bill 406 around during the 2010 session, and the bill has been instrumental to the reservoir’s fate.  At one point the bill was amended to apply only to the South Fulton reservoir project and a single municipal service delivery agreement.  But in the final hours of the session, the Senate was forced to revert to an earlier version that applies to any proposed reservoir and service delivery agreements around the state.  HB 406 now awaits Governor Sonny Perdue’s signature.

Here are a few additional problems with the South Fulton reservoir.  First, the reservoir will inundate acres of wetlands and miles of free flowing Chattahoochee tributaries.  Second, the Authority wants to pump 32 MGD from the Chattahoochee, but only 16 MGD will enter the proposed tri-city regional water supply.  This means that the remaining water in the South Fulton reservoir will maintain amenity lake-levels for future development on property owned by a single landowner (Carl Bouckaert).  Third, the City of Atlanta has already invested in pumps and pipes to serve southern Fulton County residents, according to a 2009 AJC article.  South Fulton communities face no water shortage, they are currently Atlanta’s major wholesale water customers, and Atlanta needs the revenue to pay-off the existing infrastructure.  However, the Authority (and others around the state) will have the legal right to sever an existing service delivery agreement with Atlanta under the terms of HB 406.  Fourth and final, the project undermines the tri-state water war and negotiations with Alabama and Florida over the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river basin’s overall flows.

Two final points.  First, by now, Georgia Water Wire readers should see parallels between the South Fulton and Glades reservoir projects.  Both Chattahoochee River projects started as water-supply-reservoirs-slash-amenity-lakes.  Second, the South Fulton and Glades projects – like many imagined water supply reservoirs – were also among the half-dozen or so considered by Governor Perdue’s Water Contingency Task Force in December 2009.  If anybody is interested in finding the future reservoir battlegrounds, they would be well served to commit the Task Force’s final report (or at least this appendix) to memory.  Readers might also like to review the Georgia Inventory & Survey of Feasible Sites for Water Supply Reservoirs, published by the Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority (2008).

-Chris Manganiello

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