Jimmy Parker, project manager of the Hard Labor Creek Regional Reservoir now filling in Walton County, says current water needs for partners Walton and Oconee counties are much lower now than when the project was planned.
Parker told the reservoir’s Management Board at its meeting in January that there is a need for an update to those projections so the two counties know when they will need to build the water treatment plant and distribution lines.
Parker said the two counties are looking at ways to defer construction of the plant, but discussion of a preliminary design is on the agenda for the Management Board when it meets at 1 p.m. on Tuesday at the government building in Walton County.
The agenda also includes discussion of planning for an Apalachee River intake facility, which, if plans are followed, will be used at some point in the future to greatly expand the size of the reservoir.
Chuck Horton, an Oconee County citizen who serves as an alternate member of the Management Board, raised the question at the Board’s last meeting on Jan. 19 about the projections that are being used at present to plan for construction of a treatment plant and transmission facilities.
Horton said he would like to have “an unbiased look at the scenario that may put us into a position where some of those dominos start falling” and there is a need for the plant and transmission lines.
Horton, who served as Oconee County commissioner when the county joined Walton on the project, said new projections are needed “so we know what may trigger the construction and how we are going to pay for it.”
The two counties already have spent $85 million on the reservoir, but they are expected to need to spend roughly that amount again to build the treatment plant and transmission lines.
Parker told Horton that the projections of water demand need “to be refined on a continual basis” and that the need is “definitely nothing like it was in 2005, pre-recession, when we thought there was no end to the amount of growth.”
Parker’s comments are in the video clip below.
Parker said “We have been looking at ways to defer construction of the plant,” noting that the city of Monroe has a 10 million gallon per day plant and is only using about 2 million gallons per day of that capacity.
Parker also acknowledged that Oconee County is looking at ways to get more water from the Bear Creek Reservoir in Jackson County as an alternative to bringing the Hard Labor Creek Regional Reservoir on line. Oconee is a partner in the Bear Creek Reservoir.
“The further we can move that commitment down the road the better it is for both counties,” Parker said.
As the discussion progressed, Wayne Haynie, Utility Department director for Oconee County, said that Oconee County’s “least expensive water supply would be taking more water out of the Middle Oconee River,” meaning from the Bear Creek Reservoir.
All of the transmission infrastructure is in place, Haynie said, and it might make more sense to build a second reservoir on the Middle Oconee at or near the existing Bear Creek site than to invest more in the Hard Labor Creek reservoir.
Haynie said Oconee County also could get water from the city of Monroe via existing links in the water systems of the two counties.
The Hard Labor Creek reservoir is at the far south of Walton County, while Monroe is at the north.
Haynie was appointed Utility Department director last summer and was serving on the Board at the January meeting as the alternate to Commissioner Jim Luke, who was absent.
Parker, Walton County Board of Commissioners Chairman Kevin Little, and Oconee County Administrative Officer Jeff Benko had a counter to the cautionary view about future water needs. Little and Benko are Management Board members.
An industrial user with a large demand for water could come along any time, they said, and either of the counties could need additional water to serve that industry.
“The next caterpillar, the next Baxter Pharmaceutical,” Parker said.
The reservoir was justified as providing water for residential use, not industrial use, and Oconee County officials promised that increased water customers, mostly residential, would pay the costs of the project.
That has not happened, and Horton said it inappropriate to require the county’s 10,000 water customers, rather than the whole county, to “fund the debt” for industrial development.
At the meeting in January, the Management Board agreed to spend $150,000 for the intake facility on the Apalachee River opposite New High Shoals.
The plan is for water from that intake to be piped to the reservoir now filling so that the reservoir’s capacity will exceed what is possible with Hard Labor Creek itself as the only supplier.
The $150,000, taken from unspent monies for the dam and roadway construction, will be used for geotechnical work, inspections of two existing dams on the Apalachee River at the planned intake, survey work, archeological work, and preliminary engineering.
The Board also approved moving $140,000 from the unspent funds for construction of the pubic access and recreational facilities on the reservoir.
Park told the Board that the boat ramp under construction was about 80 percent completed.
Treatment Plant Design
The Board also discussed preliminary design work on the treatment plant. The Board has decided to do what it is calling a 30 percent design “to get some good budget numbers,” Parker said.
Parker told the Board it would not have to purchase additional land since the preliminary design works shows a treatment plant could fit on the land the two counties already own.
Parker said the initial plant would only produce 8 million gallons per day of water, but the ultimate goal is more than 50 million gallons per day, providing for water need for the next 50 years.
The Board will have an estimate of the costs to build the initial plant and to operate it at the meeting on Tuesday, Parker said.
The Board took no action on Horton’s request that new data on needs be provided before moving forward with these plans.
The video of the nearly 10-minute-long discussion that resulted from Horton’s questions is below.
Sarah Bell shot the video. I was not able to attend the meeting.
The full video of the Jan. 19 meeting of the Hard Labor Creek Regional Reservoir Management Board is on the Oconee County Observations Vimeo Site.