The Hard Labor Creek Regional Reservoir Management Board last week agreed to spend $93,536 for design work for the intake structure on the Apalachee River across from North High Shoals that can be used in the future to expand the size of the reservoir.
The Board also reviewed plans for a water treatment plant for the reservoir that would rely on membrane filtration technology. Actual construction of the plant is thought to be at least three years away as neither county has a need for the water filling in the reservoir.
The Board also agreed on a rough plan to open the lake to recreational use in August of 2017 and decided to move forward with work on improvements to the public access area southeast of the bridge carrying Social Circle Fairplay Road across the reservoir.
Those improvements are budgeted at $300,000, but Project Manager Jimmy Parker said he thought the costs might come in higher because contractors are getting busier as the market improves.
Board members said talks with Morgan County about purchasing water from the reservoir were only exploratory, but Oconee County Commission Jim Luke, a Board member, said after the meeting that the Board is interested in finding long-term purchasers of the reservoir’s water.
The Board voted to move ahead with work on the Apalachee River intake late last year, and the vote last week to award a contract to CH2M Hill Engineers Inc., a global engineering firm with offices in Atlanta and Pooler, was only an extension of that earlier decision.
The work is complicated by the existence of two dams on the Apalachee at that point and a hydroelectric facility.
Parker restated at the Board meeting on Aug. 16 that the permit the counties have for withdrawal of water from the River requires that all work on the intake facility be completed by February of 2019.
At present, the reservoir is filling based on water in the Hard Labor Creek basin itself.
In the second phase of the project, up to 60 million gallons per day of water would be pumped from the Apalachee River near the Walton, Oconee and Morgan county borders and used to fill the reservoir to a level that will not be possible with the water from Hard Labor Creek itself.
CH2M also did the 30 percent design work for the treatment plant and offered plans for an initial plant capacity of only 8 million gallons per day.
The plant in the future could be expanded in phases up to 48 million gallons per day.
CH2M is recommending that pressurized membranes be used for treatment of the water after it has flowed through a sedimentation basin.
Under questioning from Board members from Oconee County, CH2M engineers agreed to come back with maintenance and operation costs for the plant.
Oconee County has found that membrane filtration, used in its wastewater treatment plant on Calls Creek, is expensive and difficult to operate.
While the reservoir’s primary purpose is water storage, regulations will allow for limited recreational use. The lake is being stocked at present for fishing.
Swimming will not be allowed, and only non-motorized boats can be launched on the lake.
Kayaks will be allowed, the Board decided. Sailboats are not.
The Board agreed to move forward with plans to have the boat ramp, parking lot, and restroom facilities in place and ready for use by August of next year.
The schedule can be modified if drought conditions require it, Parker said.
At the end of the meeting, I asked Board members for comment on a report last month in the Morgan County Citizen that Morgan County Commissioners had met with Oconee County and Walton County officials to discuss possible future access to water in the Hard Labor Creek reservoir. (A reference to the story also appeared in The Oconee Enterprise.)
The Oconee County meeting took place on June 30 in the Oconee County Courthouse, I was able to confirm based on an open records request I filed for Oconee County BOC Chairman Melvin Davis’ calendar. Davis, Luke and Oconee County Administrative Officer Jeff Benko attended.
Luke and Kevin Little, Walton County BOC Chairman, answered my question by saying that the discussions had taken place but that they were very preliminary.
“We’d like to find someone to sell water to for 30 or 40 years,” Luke said to me after the meeting, “but I don’t think they’re the one.”
Luke said he didn’t think Morgan County’s need was going to be sufficient for it to be a significant purchaser.
The complete video of the Aug. 16 meeting of the Management Board is below.
I attended the entire meeting, but Sarah Bell recorded the video.
The January meeting of the Management Board is available on the Hard Labor Creek Regional Reservoir Management Board Channel of the Oconee County Observations Vimeo Site.
Additional video of Management Board meetings will be added to the site over time.