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Gov’s Water Supply Program, Round II, Part I

September 9, 2013

On August 27, the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority (GEFA) announced $38,818,100 in loans from the Governor’s Water Supply Program (GWSP) would be available to four communities.  This recent announcement represents “Part I” because the state direct investment awards (like a grant, but the state owns physical property at the end of the day) will be issued in October or November.

Part II awards – which with a reported $44.5M available – could fund almost all of the remaining projects: Madison County Industrial Authority; Calhoun Creek reservoir; and Hall County’s Glades reservoir.  And the rest?  GEFA recommended that that Coosawattee WSA, Stockbridge, and South Fulton (Bear Creek reservoir) consider other GEFAF funding streams.

Read this post for a summary of all Round II applications, and to find links to the individual applications and a map showing project locations.

Four projects got the green light at this stage.  Two in the Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa River Basin (ACT), one in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin (ACF), and one in the Oconee-Altamaha River Basin.  One would assume the two ACT proposals would get Alabama’s attention, much as ACF flows and the oyster fishery’s decline brought Florida’s attention back to the tri-state water wars.

Paulding County has been planning for the Richland Creek Reservoir for decades.  The county requested and has been offered another for $21,600,000 loan to build a pump-storage reservoir (the Etowah River is the source).  Just as a reminder, during the 2012-13 Round I cycle, Paulding County received their first GWSP loans for more than $32,000,000 for the same project.  The “Unnecessary Reservoir” will waste tax dollars, threaten downstream communities, and endangered fish; and it made the Georgia Water Coalition’s 2012 Dirty Dozen List.  It remains unclear how this reservoir is “outside the scope of on-going ACF and ACT litigation.”

The Carroll County Water Authority has been offered a $9,070,000 loan for the massive expansion of an existing U.S. Department of Agriculture reservoir on Indian Creek (ACT).  In a strange cover letter, the applicant asserts – without evidence – that because the Georgia Environmental Protection Division “limits the number and size of withdrawals from the Little Tallapoosa River…At some point in the future, EPD will cease to allow additional withdrawals.  The CCWA’s right to withdraw water will be a valuable asset.”  Furthermore, the cover letter claims the reservoir’s 404 permit is anticipated in June 2014.  The county commission is taking a big financial risk with this assumption; there is absolutely no guarantee the Corps can issue the permit on the consultant’s speculative timeline.  Again, what would folks in Alabama think about this reservoir?

The City of Auburn – armed with a $7.3M loan offer – will move ahead with a novel water supply project.  According to the application, the community intends to convert a privately owned rock quarry into a pump-storage reservoir.  The water will come from the Mulberry River (Oconee/Altamaha Basin).  The application does not clearly explain how the quarry property’s ownership will play out.  This pump-storage project will place additional pressure on the upper Oconee River basin, where one pump-storage reservoir is in operation (Bear Creek), another is full but not operational (Cedar Creek), and another is on the table (Parks Creek).  Finally, the application includes the possible sale of raw water to Winder.  The water would be discharged from the quarry into Rocky Creek, where Winder operates a downstream intake.  How would they protect that flowing water for other withdrawals?

The Forsyth County Department of Water and Sewer (ACF) was offered an $800,000 loan for drilling exploratory water wells along Chattahoochee River below Lake Lanier.  Why this project?  Apparently the tri-state water war has locked up access to Lake Lanier (not really the case anymore) and the county needs water.  The project will drill exploratory wells into bedrock aquifers to determine what they might yield.  The real reason for this project: Forsyth County historically bought most of its water from other water authorities and municipalities.  The county has recently sparred with Cumming – the primary water supplier – over the cost of treated and raw water sourced from Lake Lanier.

GEFA broke the GWSP loan news in a release detailing over $68M in water and sewer infrastructure projects.  Of the $68M, about $30M in Georgia Fund and Drinking Water State Revolving Fund loans will finance sewer system upgrades, water line replacement, new water meters, and water treatment plant construction.  The remaining $38M will come from the GWSP for new supply side reservoir projects.  So what?

Georgia has had many opportunities to invest in existing water supply and delivery systems.  Instead, on more than one occasion Georgia has elected to fund two proposed reservoirs in the already contested river basins like the ACT.

Missed opportunity: Reps. Ed Linsey and Lynn Smith introduced HB 199 during the 2013 legislative session.  The bill would have allowed funding from the GWSP to be used for water efficiency and conservation projects in addition to new reservoir projects and other water supply projects.  The bill sailed through the House by a significant majority, passed out of the Senate Natural Resources Committee, but was reportedly killed by the Governor – who created the GWSP – during the last days of the session and it was never brought to the Senate for a vote.

Stay tuned.  There’s more to come on the GWSP once the state direct investment awards are announced.

-Chris Manganiello


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