Morgan and Oconee county residents opposed to the proposed intake facility on the Apalachee River in Morgan County for an expanded Hard Labor Creek Regional Reservoir got their first major victory on Tuesday evening.
Three of the five members of the Morgan County Board of Commissioners said they support citizens who are opposing construction of the intake facility in Morgan County.
Many of those same opponents of the intake had appeared before the Hard Labor Creek Regional Reservoir Management Board earlier in the day, where they had expressed opposition to any reservoir intake facility, regardless of location, that takes water from the Aplachee River.
The Walton County Water and Sewer Authority, which met with the Management Board on Tuesday, holds a permit for withdrawal of water from the Aplachee River, and the Authority is asking the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to extend the permit and change the intake location.
At the Tuesday meeting with the Morgan County Commission, the residents focused their attention on the 202-acre property in Morgan County the Authority has under contract, and even the two commissioners who would not commit voiced some support for the citizen request.
The nearly back-to-back meetings of the Hard Labor Creek Regional Reservoir Board and of the Morgan County Board of Commissioners gave opponents of the proposed intake facility two opportunities to voice their concerns about the project.
|Morgan County Commissioner Ron Milton|
About 40 people attended the joint meeting of the Hard Labor Creek Regional Reservoir Management Board and of the Walton County Water and Sewer Authority, which started at 1 p.m. at the Walton County Historic Courthouse in Monroe.
The same number attended the Board of Commissioners meeting, which started at 5 p.m. in the Administrative Building in downtown Madison.
Attendance at the meetings had been organized by a group called the Greater Apalachee River Community, representing people on the Morgan and Oconee sides of the river.
Citizens from both counties spoke out at the meeting in Walton County, while Morgan County residents from the Riverwalk subdivision took the lead in making the case before their commissioners at the second meeting in Madison.
David Jackson, 1400 Riverwalk Road, ended the citizen comments at the Morgan County meeting by saying he wanted the Board to pass a resolution opposing the construction an intake facility in Morgan County. Jackson is president of the Riverwalk Home Owners Association.
|District Map Morgan County 2012|
(Click To Enlarge)
District 5 Commissioner Ron Milton, who also is Board chair, said “I personally am sympathetic with what you are doing and fully support what you are doing.”
Milton said he did want to wait until after a scheduled meeting with Walton County commissioners next week before taking a vote but would put Jackson’s request on the agenda for the Board’s next meeting on May 1.,
Ben Riden, whose District 3 includes Riverwalk and much of the north of the county, said “I'm with you” on the intake location and wanted to see updated studies of the impact of the intake, regardless of location, on the river.
Andy Ainslie, District 2 commissioner, said “I’d like to say I’m with you too."
Donald B. Harris, District 1 commissioner, said “As of now, I lean with backing you all, but I’m going to need to get more information” before making a final decision.
Philipp von Hanstein, District 4 commissioner, was the most equivocal, saying “I’d like to see what the Corps (of Engineers) would say to some of these issues.” Von Hanstein did say he was disappointed in how Walton and Oconee counties had kept Morgan County commissioners uninformed about the project.
At the meeting in Monroe, the citizens were more focused on the impact of withdraw of water from the Apalachee than on the location of the intake facility.
“We’re not only opposed to an Apalachee River intake where it is currently sited,” Ed Snell, 1900 Gober Road in Oconee County and the first speaker, told the Management Board and Water and Sewer Authority members.
“Based on the information we’ve got now we’re opposed to any Apalachee River intake without further study,” Snell said.
Fourteen different people spoke, all is opposition to the project, at the Management Board meeting. Only four spoke in the meeting less than three hours later in Madison.
While the Hard Labor Creek Regional Reservoir Management Board is only advisory to the Walton County Water and Sewer Authority, the meeting on Tuesday–and other joint meetings of the two groups–was run by Management Board Chair Mark Saxon and by Project Manager Jimmy Parker.
Saxon is an Oconee County Commissioner and one of three Oconee County representatives on the seven-member Management Board.
Walton County, the dominant partner in the project, has four persons on the Management Board.
Parker, who also is senior vice president at Precision Planning Inc., which has offices in Monroe, began the discussion of the intake facility with a presentation he had given to the participants in tours of the Bear Creek Reservoir intake facility last week.
(The PowerPoint Parker used is HERE.)
Parker earlier in the Tuesday meeting had reported that the newly built reservoir, located in southeastern Walton County northeast of Social Circle, is only 1.3 feet shy of full pool, based on water from the Hard Labor Creek basin itself.
The intake facility would convert the reservoir to a pump-storage reservoir, with water from the Apalachee supplementing water from the Hard Labor Creek basin to increase the amount of treated water the reservoir could produce.
At full pool, the reservoir would produce 16.6 million gallons per day of water, computed as the total average day flow for each month divided by 12. (Parker said there is more than one way to compute available water, but this is the most commonly used method.)
Of that 16.6 million, Oconee County’s share would be 4.8 million gallons per day, and Walton’s share would be 11.8 million gallons per day. Oconee County is a 28.8 percent partner in the project.
If the reservoir is converted to a pump-storage facility at some point in the future, its capacity would be expanded to 51.8 million gallons per day, Parker told me in an email message on Monday. (He used a rounded figure of 52 million gallons per day in the presentation.)
Oconee County would have the rights to 14.9 million gallons per day, and Walton would be entitled to 36.9 million gallons per day.
Oconee County Water Use
At present, County County Manager Justin Kirouac told me in an email message Tuesday, Oconee County is using 2.52 million gallons per day on an annual average day basis.
|Ed Snell At Management Board Meeting|
Oconee County, Kirouac said, at present is getting 2.38 million gallons per day from the Bear Creek Reservoir in Jackson County, 0.12 from groundwater wells in the county, and .02 from Barrow County.
The Oconee County Board of Commissioners earlier this month agreed to lease from Barrow County 500,000 gallons per day of water produced by the Bear Creek water treatment facility.
Under the terms of the agreement, Oconee County's designated capacity from the Water Treatment Facility will be 4.5 million gallons per day. (The 2.38 million gallons per day of water use at present is an average.)
The agreement is to take effect immediately and remain in effect for five years. Oconee County has the option to extend the agreement for two additional years.
Reason For Intake Facility Construction
Former Oconee County Water Resources Department Director Wayne Haynie told the Board of Commissioners in January of last year that the county’s average daily water need should remain under 4 million gallons per day until about 2030.
Because neither Walton County nor Oconee County needs water from the Hard Labor Creek reservoir, no treatment plant or distribution system has been built.
At its May 2017 meeting, the Hard Labor Creek Regional Reservoir Management Board, voted to go forward with construction of the intake facility on the Apalachee River so as not to lose the permit the Walton County Water and Sewer Authority has for withdrawal of water from the river.
Project Manager Parker estimated at that time that the cost for the intake structure for the future expansion of the reservoir would be $1.9 million and said the two counties have enough money already borrowed to complete the intake structure.
The budget Parker reviewed at the Tuesday meeting indicates that $2.7 million is in the current fiscal year budget for the intake, and that $96,369 already has been spent, including $39,137 in the January to March period.
The Management Board does not have money to build the transmission lines to carry that water from the Apalachee River to the reservoir, some 14 miles away, depending on final intake location.
At the Management Board meeting in Monroe, Riverwalk Home Owners Association President Jackson said the Board and Authority members around the table “should be ashamed of yourselves” for not having gone to the Morgan County commissioners to tell them about the plans to put the intake facility in the county.
Jackson said–as did the Board members that night–that the commissioners and others in government learned about the proposal from citizens who had been notified by the Corps of Engineers of the permit modification request.
Saxon said “we made assumptions” based on the information they had been given that there was communication between Morgan County and the Management Board. He said he would not say who had given the Board that information.
Oconee County Commissioner Chuck Horton, a member of the Management Board, said he had apologized to Morgan County Commissioner Riden.
“I can only tell you straight up that I am sorry,” Horton said. “I think it was a horrible error.”
Kevin Little, Walton County Commission Chair and a member of the Management Board, said “probably within the last three years” Walton and Oconee county commission members had met with commissioners from Walton County who were interested in obtaining water from the Hard Labor Creek Reservoir.
He said he had not informed Walton County about the plans to purchase land in Morgan County for the intake because “we probably did assume” the county would approve.
The videos below are of the two meetings.
Discussion of the intake facility begins at 14:46 in the first video, which is of the Management Board meeting.
Citizen comment began at 35:49 in the video.
Jackson made his comment at 1:06:08 in the video.
In the second video, of the Morgan County Board of Commissioners meeting, citizen comment began at 2:38 in the video.
I did not stay for the remainder of the Morgan County Commission meeting because I wanted to attend at least part of the Town Hall Meeting held by the Oconee County Board of Commissioners at Oconee Veterans Park that same evening.
The Morgan County video stops when the citizen comment ended.