Despite objections from the Morgan County Board of Commissioners, the Hard Labor Creek Regional Reservoir Management Board and the Walton County Water and Sewer Authority are still considering an intake facility on the Apalachee River in Morgan County.
Kevin Little, vice-chair of the Hard Labor Creek Regional Reservoir Management Board, made that announcement Friday at the end of a called meeting of the Management Board and the Water Authority.
About 30 people attended the meeting, held in the historic Walton County Courthouse in Monroe.
Those who spoke challenged plans to go forward with building an intake facility on the Apalachee River in Morgan County to transfer water–at some point in the future–from the Apalachee to Hard Labor Creek Regional Reservoir in southeastern Walton County.
According to the agenda released in advance, the called meeting for 10 a.m. on Friday was “to discuss land acquisition matters related to the proposed Apalachee River Intake Site.”
|Parker, Left, And Little|
The two bodies met in open for a little more than six minutes, went into closed or executive session for about 20 minutes to discuss land acquisition, which is allowed by Georgia law, and then returned to open session for a little more than three minutes.
Chair Little told citizens gathered before going into executive session that “I don’t know that there will be a conclusion at the end of the business today but there is a possibility.”
When the executive session ended, however, Little said “Let the records show that no decision were made in executive session.
“We want to express our acknowledgment to all of you citizens and all the concerns, for everybody that has submitted and has made public comments,” Little said.
“We also do acknowledge the Morgan County Board of Commissioners taking a resolution that they support Hard Labor Creek Reservoir and they prefer it not being in Morgan County,” Little continued.
“And so that being said, we are going to leave all options on the table that we will receive to look for the future water needs of the whole region.”
Chair Little allowed comments from citizens at the beginning of the meeting and after coming back into regular session and making that statement.
|Daniels, Middle, Asked If Morgan Still An Option|
Michael Prochaska from The Oconee Enterprise asked how many sites were under consideration and was told “multiple,” including some not yet even identified.
Brooke Daniels, 1181 River Run and an organizer of Greater Apalachee River Community, followed with this question: “Are you still considering, is Morgan County out?”
“We acknowledge what the Morgan County resolution said,” Little responded, “but we are still considering all of our options. That site is still under consideration.”
The Greater Apalachee River Community has been aggressive in opposing the intake facility since an initial rally in early March on a Oconee County farm on the Apalachee River off Gober Road.
In response to a question at the beginning of the meeting, Project Manager Jimmy Parker said the Walton County Water and Sewer Authority has not yet received any letter from the Corps of Engineers about the status of the permit modification application.
“We’re not sure what the delay is,” Parker said. “We would like to get it as soon as possible.”
Project Manager Parker told the joint meeting of the Management Board and Water Authority at the beginning of the meeting yesterday that the reservoir is nearly full and will reach full level with a couple of rains.
The water in the reservoir is from the Hard Labor Creek watershed basin.
At some point in the future, the Management Board wants to expand the treatment capacity of the reservoir by pumping water from the Apalachee River to the reservoir.
At present, neither Walton County nor Oconee County, partners in the project, need water from the reservoir, and no treatment plant has been built. A distribution system for the treated water has not been constructed.
The United States Army Corps of Engineers has granted the Water and Sewer Authority a permit to withdraw water from a specific site on the Apalachee River, but that permit will expire in 2019, and the Authority has not been able to come to terms with the Walton County landowner listed in the permit.
The permit modification before the Corps proposes to move the intake site to Morgan County and asks for an extension of the deadline until 2021.
The Walton County Water Sewer Authority has an option on 202 acres in Morgan County on High Shoals Road, bordering on Riverwalk subdivision.
Parker told me in an email message on May 9 that “the current due diligence period expires on May 18” for that option.
Citizens on the Oconee County and Morgan County side of the Apalachee River have been protesting the Morgan County site since the Corps of Engineers issued notice of the requested change in venue for the intake site and deadline extension in late February.
The primary concerns has been the impact of the facility on the River and the adverse effect of the intake on property values.
On May 1, the Morgan County Board of Commissioners passed unanimously a resolution stating its opposition to locating an intake facility for the Hard Labor Creek Regional Reservoir on the Apalachee River in Morgan County.
The resolution did state, as Management Board Vice Chair Little noted, support for the reservoir.
But the Board cited “complexities” relating to the intake facility and the lack of communication with Morgan County regarding the project for its opposition to the location.
The resolution stated simply that “the Morgan County Board of Commissioners opposes the proposed location of the water intake in the Apalachee River in Morgan County.”
I was not able to attend the joint meeting of the Management Board and Water Authority on Friday.
Sarah Bell did attend the meeting and made the video recording below.
A dissolve at 6:40 in the video separates the part of the meeting preceding the executive session from the part of the meeting that followed.