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Issue Brief: Glades Reservoir III

June 8, 2010

So here is the latest roundup of factors influencing Glades Reservoir’s future according to several Gainesville Times reports.

A quick recap: Hall County residents paid for construction of the Cedar Creek pump-storage reservoir via a SPLOST referendum.  The Hall County Government obtained two permits from Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division (EPD).  The first permit allows for a 20 million gallon-per-day (MGD) withdrawal from the North Oconee River to keep the reservoir filled, and the second permit allows for a 2.5 MGD withdrawal from the reservoir to keep municipal water supply pipes filled.  When the reservoir was completed, Hall County turned the reservoir property over to Gainesville; that is, not the permits or the water.  Additionally, Hall County also ceded county water delivery infrastructure (and the associated debt) to Gainesville.  The city was to build a water treatment plant at the reservoir site and withdraw water under the terms of the county’s permits.

Hall County, as I’ve blogged about already, wants the Cedar Creek reservoir (North Oconee River/Altamaha River Basin) back for one major reason.  Hall County wants to sell Cedar Creek’s water inside and outside of the county, and to use that revenue to pay for the as-of-yet un-built Glades Reservoir pump-storage reservoir (Flat Creek/Chattahoochee River basin).  If true at any level, we should anticipate an interbasin transfer (IBT) in the future.  According to current regulations, this would be a legal IBT since Hall County is part of the Metropolitan North Georgia Water Management District.

What gives?  Hall County and Gainesville have reached a stalemate and cannot agree on how to proceed with Cedar Creek.  In an effort to break the impasse, the Hall County commissioners recently asked the Gainesville leadership to make a formal decision: would the city like future access to between 40 and 60 MGD from Glades?  Gainesville’s mayor responded that they support Glades in concept but are unlikely to commit until Hall County produces a requested business and financing plan for Glades.  One county commissioner recently attended a city meeting where he expressed frustration with the political situation and the county leadership’s ultimatum.  In an effort to smooth over relations, Ashley Bell empathized with Gainesville officials: “It’s not appropriate for [Hall County officials] to decide something” while Gainesville only gets to “vote it up or down.”

Things take a turn:  Hall County’s Cedar Creek permits are set to expire in 2012.  So, the city of Gainesville applied for its own EPD permits in March 2010 and subsequently began planning the Cedar Creek water treatment plant.  The Gainesville permit application includes a 20 MGD withdrawal from the North Oconee River and a 9.5 MGD withdrawal from the reservoir.  If EPD issued the permits and the city completed the treatment plant, Gainesville would have greater control over Cedar Creek’s future.  This, of course, would also throw Hall County for a loop and could threaten Glades Reservoir’s size and financing.

Hall County has become a microcosm of the long-running tri-state water war. There are a lot of lines in the sand and a whole lot of talking about talking.

For more background on Glades, Cedar Creek, and Hall County, surf the following:

Issue Brief: Glades Reservoir & Hall County Water War (I)

Issue Brief: Glades Reservoir II

-Chris Manganiello

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