Morgan County will ask the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to hold a public hearing on the request by the Walton County Water and Sewer Authority for an intake facility on the Apalachee River in Morgan County and for an extension of the permit for withdrawal of water from the river.
The county also will ask for a public meeting with the Water and Sewer Authority, engineers for the project, and the Corps to answer questions from the public about the project, according to Morgan County Manager Adam Mestres.
Two residents of Gober Road in Oconee County told the Bishop City Council on Monday night that Apalachee River area residents had sent a certified letter to the Corps with 137 names on it asking for the public hearing on the location of the intake and on the permit itself.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued a Public Notice on Feb. 20 regarding an application from the Walton County Water and Sewer Authority for the intake facility in Walton County and for a two-year extension of the permit for withdrawal of water beyond Feb. 28, 2019.
|Map Of Site From Public Notice (Click To Enlarge)|
The Water and Sewer Authority is asking for a change in the existing permit, moving the intake location from a 3.48 acre tract between SR 186 and the Apalachee River in Walton County owned by Victoria Bracewell Presley, to a 202-acre tract of land 1.50 mile south of the intersection of High Shoals Road and SR186.
The Water and Sewer Authority has the 202 acres, with frontage on High Shoals Road, under contract, according to Mark Saxon, Oconee County Commissioner and chair of the Reservoir Management board. The land is owned by Robert Pennington Land and Timber IV LLC, based in Madison.
According to the Public Notice, requests for a public hearing should be sent to Elisha A. Brannon, 1590 Adamson Parkway, Suite 200, Morrow, Ga. 30260-1777, or by email at Elisha.A.Brannon@usace.army.mil, by March 22.
Morgan County Response
County Manager Mestres told me in a telephone conversation yesterday (Wednesday) that the Morgan County Board of Commissioners has not taken a position at this point on the permit modification or extension.
“We need more data,” he said.
Once the Board has gotten additional information from the Water and Sewer Authority and from Precision Planning Inc., which is doing the engineering work on the project, the Board likely will discuss the permit modification, he said.
Mestres said he talked at length with Brannon from the Corps of Engineers on Monday.
Mestres said he learned that the review process is just beginning and that a lot of additional information will need to be gathered before the Corps makes a decision.
“I’m not as overly worried, as I was last week,” he said.
Public Hearing And Public Meeting
Mestres said that, should the Corps hold a public hearing, citizens only will be able to make comments and will not get responses from the Corps.
For that reason, he said, he also wants a public meeting where citizens can get answers to their questions from the Water and Sewer Authority, from Precision Planning, and from the Corps of Engineers.
Mestres said he expects the Corps to make a decision on the public hearing 30 to 45 days after the close of public comments on March 22.
Mestres said he also has talked to Oconee County Board of Commissioners Chair John Daniell and Walton County Board of Commissioners Chair Kevin Little.
Oconee County is a 28.8 percent partner in the Hard Labor Creek Regional Reservoir with Walton County, which has 71.2 percent interest.
The Hard Labor Creek reservoir, located in the southeast of Walton County, is now reaching full stage with water from Hard Labor Creek and its tributaries.
It can provide the two counties with 13 million gallons per day of treated water, though the two counties have put on hold plans for a treatment plant and distribution system because neither needs water from the reservoir.
A proposed future stage of the project is to expand the reservoir to a pump-storage facility, with water transferred from the Apalachee River to the reservoir to increase its capacity to provide treated water to the two counties. Estimates are that the expanded facility would provide 52 million gallons per day of water.
The Corps issued the original permit for the intake facility at the Walton County site in February of 2004 and extended it in February of 2014 to Feb. 28, 2019.
The Public Notice indicates that several changes would be needed for the proposed Walton County intake site, including approval of excavation and reshaping within the river bed to align river flows toward the intake facility.
Approximately 270 cubic yards of streambed is proposed for removal.
Megan Hulitt, 1672 Gober Road, and Loren Moores, 1550 Gober Road, appeared before the Bishop City Council on Monday night at the end of a long meeting of Council with Georgia Department of Transportation officials for a discussion of a truck bypass of Bishop.
“I just wanted you all to be aware of what’s going on,” Hulitt said.
Council members listened to Hulitt and Moores but didn’t offer support for their efforts.
“I’d like to have you all in the town of Bishop, folks, but you’re not town of Bishop residents,” Mayor Johnny Pritchett said.
Council member Nedra Johnson did attend a meeting on March 4 of Apalachee River neighborhood groups and residents.
Hulitt and Moores get their mail from the Bishop Post Office, as do residents on the other side of the river in Morgan County, so they have Bishop addresses, though they are not within the city limits of Bishop.
I shot the video of the Bishop City Council from the back of the room using a camera on a walking stick rather than a tripod because of space limitations.
The sound in the video also picks up a lot of reverberation.
Hulitt began her comments at 1:13:25 in the video.