Thursday, November 12, 2015

Hard Labor Creek Regional Reservoir Board Votes To Move Forward With Construction Of Apalachee River Intake Facility

Water Not Needed Now

The Hard Labor Creek Regional Reservoir Management Board finds itself in a difficult position.

The reservoir in southeast Walton County is filling quite nicely, the Board was told at its meeting late last month.

Neither Walton County nor Oconee County, partners in the project, needs the water from the reservoir, however, and it will be five or more years before the Board is expected to build a treatment plant and distribution system for that water.

At the same time, the Board is being asked to move forward on the next, expanded phase of the project that won’t be needed until at least 2030. If it doesn't act, it will lose its federal permit to withdraw water from the Apalachee River.

The Board voted at the meeting to go forward with three contracts totaling $48,583 for the Apalachee River intake facility, and it also decided to spend $84,000 for soil borings and geotechnical study of the future water treatment plant site.

Recreation Facility

The Board, at its meeting on Oct. 27 at the old courthouse in Monroe, also voted to spend $549,490 for the first phase of construction of recreational facilities on the reservoir.

Included will be a boat ramp with accompanying dock, a fishing pier, restroom facilities with a well and septic system, and parking. The Board made the decision to leave the parking lot unpaved because the bid for the project came in higher than expected.

The site is just south of the rebuilt Social Circle-Fairplay Road and east of the main body of the reservoir.

E.R. Snell Contractor Inc. of Snellville submitted the only bid.

Construction will begin this month and continue through 2018, as the reservoir fills.

Money for the recreational facility will come from reallocation of funds in the $5.8 million General Contingency Fund for the project.

Not included in the timetable or funding is a future passive park, to be financed by Walton County alone.

Reservoir Status

Project Manager Jimmy Parker told the Board that the reservoir began filling quickly after the Georgia Department of Natural Resources gave its approval on Sept. 8 to begin impoundment.

Filling was permitted at an unlimited rate until the reservoir reached a level of 647.5 MSL, which it did at the time of the meeting last month. MSL is a reference based on sea level. The reservoir was 26.6 feet deep at the dam.

As the reservoir fills beyond the present level, the rate of increase is regulated to allow for more careful analysis of the dam itself.

The reservoir, in southeastern Walton County, is a joint project of Walton and Oconee counties.

Water Treatment Facility

Parker, in the video clip below, told the Board that neither Walton nor Oconee county is expected to need water from the reservoir for at least another five years.

OCO: Parker on Water Treatment from Lee Becker on Vimeo

Originally the two counties expected residential demand to grow strongly and that the growth would pay for the construction costs of the project, which already have run to $82.4 million.

The total cost of the first phase of the project is projected to be $170.3 million. That includes the treatment plant and the distribution lines needed to get the water to the customers in the two counties.

The Board voted to spend the $84,000 with Golder Associates of Atlanta for soil borings and geotechnical study of the plant site so as to be prepared to move forward with the project should some large industrial customer come along and need water not currently available.

The plan is to limit design work on the treatment facility to 30 percent to hold down costs and allow for flexibility regarding the technology to be used.

Apalachee River

Hard Labor Creek itself will supply enough water to fill the reservoir to pool in this first phase, but, during the second phase of the project, water will be pumped from the Apalachee River to the reservoir to increase its capacity.

The Walton County Water and Sewer Authority holds a permit from the federal government allowing it to draw this water from the river.

That permit expires in February of 2019, and, as Parker explains in the video clip below, it is necessary for the Management Board to complete work on that intake facility by that date, even though it will not actually draw water until 2030 at the earliest.

OCO: Parker On Apalachee River from Lee Becker on Vimeo

Total cost of the two phases of the project is estimated at $350 million and is projected to meet water needs of the two counties for 50 to 70 years.

Action Taken

Parker told the Board that his firm, Precision Planning Inc., with offices in Monroe, had met on Sept. 8 with Victoria Bracewell-Presley, whose family owns the land on which the intake facility will be built.

The project is complicated because two dams exist on the river at that location, and the existing owners are generating power from a hydroelectric facility on the site.

Map Of Apalachee River At Proposed Site From Parker
(Click To Enlarge)

In addition, the site is on the National Register of Historic Places because of a mill and other historic artifacts.

The Board voted to spend $8,933 with Nelson Environmental Inc. of Stone Mountain to conduct a cultural resources survey of the site.

Dam Needed

The Management Board will need the northern-most of the two dams to create a sufficient pool from which the water can be drawn, so it agreed to spend $9,500 with Schnabel Engineering to do a preliminary study of that dam. Schnabel is based in Alpharetta.

In addition, the Board agreed to spend $30,150 with Golder Associates to perform a geotechnical rock elevation study of the proposed site of the intake facility.

Parker said that the negotiations regarding the dam and the property are likely to be quite complex because of issues about ownership and about the future operation of the hydroelectric facility once water is drawn for the Hard Labor Creek Regional Reservoir.

Parker said he met with the North High Shoals City Council on Oct. 19 to keep it informed of the proposed discussions about the intake facility.

I was not able to attend the Management Board meeting on Oct. 27. Sarah Bell did attend and made the video recording used in this post.

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