Monday, March 26, 2018

Citizens Plan To Address Oconee County Board Of Commissioner On Proposed Apalachee River Intake

Follow To Morgan County Meeting

Residents living along the Apalachee River in Oconee and Morgan counties who are concerned about the impact of a proposed water intake facility on the river plan to attend the Oconee County Board of Commissioners meeting tomorrow night to seek support.

The gathering will be a sequel to one the group, now organized under the name Greater Apalachee River Community, held last week with the Board of Commissioners in Morgan County.

An estimated 25 citizens attended the Morgan County Commission meeting, and Oconee County resident Vicki Soutar joined two residents of River Walk in Morgan County in addressing the Morgan County Commission.

The Morgan County Board of Commissioners has written to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers asking for a public hearing on the request by the Walton County Water and Sewer Authority for modification of its permit to withdrawal water from the Apalachee River for the Hard Labor Creek Regional Reservoir in Walton County.

The city of Madison also has written to the Corps expressing concern about the permit.

The agenda for the Oconee County Board of Commissioners meeting tomorrow night is light, and citizen comment is at the very beginning of the meeting, which starts at 6 p.m. at the Courthouse in Watkinsville.

Permit Request

The Walton County Water and Sewer Authority holds a permit, issued in 2004, from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to withdraw water from the Apalachee River from a site in Walton County above a small hydroelectric plant at High Shoals in Walton County.

Diagram Of Proposed Intake Facility
Morgan County Below And River Above
Click To Enlarge

The Authority is seeking to extend the permit beyond its expiration on Feb. 28, 2019, and to move the site of the intake from the Walton County site to a 202-acre tract in Morgan County.

The Authority wants to withdraw the water from the Apalachee River at some point in the future to expand the capacity of the Hard Labor Creek Regional Reservoir in southeastern Walton County.

The reservoir is a joint project of Walton and Oconee counties, but neither county needs the water it holds at present, and no water treatment plant or distribution system has been built.

The reservoir is near full-stage with water from the Hard Labor Creek basin itself, and the permit would allow for transformation of the reservoir into a pump-storage facility to expand capacity in the future.

The Corps of Engineers issued a Public Notice on the request for the site change and permit extension on Feb. 20, 2018.

Morgan County Meeting

I was not able to attend the meeting of the Morgan County Board of Commissioners on March 20 because of another meeting in Oconee County, and the estimate of the crowd size comes from Adam Mestres, Morgan County manager.

Jack Rice and Wayne Parks were the two River Walk residents who spoke to the Board, according to notes from the meeting circulated by the Greater Apalachee River Community.

The 202-acres that the Walton County Water and Sewer Authority has under contract as a potential intake facility site borders the River Walk subdivision on High Shoals Road in Morgan County.

Soutar, the third speaker, is the organizer of Oconee Waters, an affiliate of the Upper Oconee Watershed Network, a citizen group formed in 2000 to protect water resources and improve stream health through community-based advocacy, monitoring, education, and recreation.

Soutar has written to the Corp asking it to deny the permit modifications.

Morgan Commission Letter

In a letter to the Corps dated March 20, 2018, Mestres, on behalf of the Board of Commissioners of Morgan County, requested that “more information be provided regarding water intake parameters prior to issuance” of the permit extension and site modification.

“Of particular note, the Board of Commissioners would like to review water withdrawal rate information for the proposed intake site,” the letter continues. “The City of Madison, a municipality in Morgan County, has an intake further downstream in which water is supplied to a significant number of households within our geographical boundaries.

“As you are aware, water is a precious commodity and we want to ensure that such intake does not have a negative impact on our community.

“Additionally, we would like to review any information regarding where subsequent intake lines from the intake point back to the reservoir will be located.

“We are firm that any lines proposed to be located within the geographical boundaries of Morgan County need to be reviewed by the local governing authority. This will provide an opportunity to consider the full impact such lines may have on any existing road construction or expansion and future new road construction within already established or future rights-of-way.”

Second Morgan County Letter

Chuck Jarrell, director of Morgan County Planning and Development, also sent a letter to the Corps on March 15, 2018, on behalf of the Morgan County Board of Commissioners, asking for a public hearing.

Jarrell said that Morgan County was not given notice of the requested permit modifications prior to learning of them from citizens in the county.

“When contacted by Morgan County officials, representatives for the applicant indicated that all necessary studies had been completed and the project was essentially approved,” Jarrell wrote.

Jarrell said that the application is in error in that it identified only one of two perennial streams that will be affected by the intake site.

“The Public Notice states that the Apalachee River water flow will be altered to accommodate the location of the proposed intake facility, with liberal use of concrete and considerable removal of streambed material,” Jarrell wrote. “These actions further our concerns related to aquatic habitat and raises questions as to why such drastic measures are proposed.”

Madison Letter

Wm. David Dunn, city manager of Madison, wrote to the Corps on March 13 expressing concern about the impact of eventual withdrawal of water from the Apalachee River on the city’s water use in the future.

“The City of Madison's concern is that the prospect of any water intake structure is ultimately followed by a permit request from the applicant to withdraw water from the river,” Dunn wrote.

“I appreciate that your public notice seeks to ‘solicit comments on the proposed impacts resulting from the Apalachee River water intake structure ONLY’,” Dunn noted. “However, the City of Madison will, in an abundance of caution, express our concerns at this opportunity given the potential impact to the City's existing permitted withdrawal capacity.

“The City is concerned that the proposed pump station will impact the availability and quantity of drinking water to the City's existing water plant intake at the Greensboro Road crossing of the Apalachee River.

“Madison requests that any pumped withdrawals from the project do not affect or reduce the availability, quality, or quantity of water supply at Madison's existing raw water intake on the river, especially during drought conditions.

“Such drought conditions have occurred within the last two to three years and significantly affected the City's water supply availability at that time.”

Reservoir Management

The permit for the withdrawal of water from the Apalachee River is held by the Walton County Water and Sewer Authority, which reports to the Walton County Board of Commissioners.

When Oconee County agreed to join Walton County in the project in 2007, the two counties formed a seven-member Management Board for the reservoir.

Oconee County has three representatives on that Board, and Walton County has the remaining four.

Oconee County Commissioner Mark Saxon is chair of the Management Board at present.

Oconee County Commissioner Chuck Horton also is a member.

County Administrator Justin Kirouac is the third Oconee County member of the Board.

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