Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Hard Labor Creek Reservoir Board Purchases Land On Apalachee River At High Shoals For Intake Facility

***Hydroelectric Plant To Close***

The Hard Labor Creek Regional Reservoir Management Board last week agreed to purchase 3.48 acres on the Apalachee River at High Shoals for an intake facility and pump station for future expansion of the reservoir in southeastern Walton County.

The Walton County Water and Sewer Authority, meeting with the Management Board, also approved the $1.3 million purchase agreement with Victoria Bracewell Presley that includes both temporary and permanent easements at the site as well as water rights.

According to the agreement, Presley would surrender her existing federal license to operate a hydroelectric facility on the Apalachee downriver from the 3.48 acres, give up her water diversion permits from the state of Georgia, and decommission operation of the facility.

In approving the purchase agreement, the Management Board and the Water and Sewer Authority are returning to the site for the intake facility and pump station listed in the existing water withdrawal permit the Authority holds with the United States Army Corps of Engineers.

The Management Board and Water and Sewer Authority earlier this year had asked the Corps to modify its permit to allow it to move to an alternate site in Morgan County when it could not come to terms with Presley but returned to the Presley property because of opposition in Morgan and Oconee counties.

Agreement Approval

The Management Board and Water and Sewer Authority went into executive session at the end of their joint meeting on Oct. 31 to discuss the purchase and sale agreement for the Presley property.

When the two groups came out of executive session, Management Board Chair Mark Saxon, a member of the Oconee County Board of Commissioners, announced the agreement.

Both the Management Board and the Water and Sewer Authority then approved the agreement unanimously.

The Management Board is made up of three representative of Oconee County and four representatives of Walton County. The two counties are partners in the reservoir project.

The Management Board is advisory, and the Walton County Water and Sewer Authority holds the permits for the reservoir.

Property And Easements

The 16-page agreement, signed by Presley on Oct. 22, stipulates that the Walton County Water and Sewer Authority will purchase the 3.48 acre tract on the north side of SR 186 for the future site of the Apalachee River intake facility and raw water pump station.

Main Property In Lavender With Adjacent Permanent Easement

The Authority also will obtain a permanent easement on 0.22 acres adjoining the 3.48 acre tract to allow for construction and maintenance of a channel in the bed of the Apalachee River.

The easement allows for dredging and excavation activities for the removal of sediment and rock from the river bed.

The agreement gives the Authority a permanent easement allowing it to access, maintain and repair the uppermost of two dams on the Apalachee River upstream from the High Shoals. Neither the Authority nor Presley is obligated to repair the dam, according to the agreement.

The Authority will obtain a temporary access and construction easement adjacent to the 3.48 acre tract for the construction of a groundwater well. The well will replace existing wells that serves rental properties on the remaining 17.78 acres owned by Presley.

Finally, the Authority will obtain a temporary easement to eliminate the current water diversion to the High Shoals Hydroelectric facility, which is downstream from the SR 186 bridge over the Apalachee River.

Water Rights

Presley’s father, Gaynor Bracewell, obtained a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) license in 1981 for operation of a 1.027 megawatt hydroelectric facililty at High Shoals.

The agreement approved last week and signed by Presley conveys to the Water and Sewer Authority all water rights, including those under the FERC license and permits from the Georgia Environment Protection Division (EPD), held by Presley.

Presley agreed to “close, cease power production and otherwise shut down” the hydroelectric facility, surrender the FERC license, and give up her permit from the Georgia EPD for diversion of water from the Apalachee.

The agreement gives the Authority the right to pursue the termination of Presley’s existing contract with Georgia Power for sale of electricity from the plant. The Authority is responsible for paying any termination fees for ending the contract.


The agreement approved last week allows for a 180 day inspection period before it goes into effect.

Closing would be 30 days after submittal of the surrender of the FERC permit, according to the agreement.

The agreement allows the Authority to move forward with its application with the United States Corp of Engineers for a permit extension for construction of its intake facility on the Apalachee River at High Shoals.

The permit for that withdrawal of water from the Apalachee River expires in February of 2019.

At present, no water treatment plant or distribution system has been built for the existing Hard Labor Creek Regional Reservoir as neither Oconee County nor Walton County needs water from the facility at present.

The reservoir is being filled by water from the Hard Labor Creek watershed, and no timetable is in place for pumping of water from the Apalachee River to the reservoir.

That action would convert the reservoir from its existing status to a pump-storage reservoir.


The video below is of the entire meeting of the Management Board and Development Authority on Oct. 31, held in the historic Walton County Courthouse in Monroe.

The calendar on the Oconee County web site did not list the called meeting, and two email messages sent me (on Oct. 16 and 24) from Jimmy Parker, project manager for the reservoir project, ended in my spam folder.

I learned of the meeting from Oconee County Commissioner Chuck Horton, a member of the Management Board, while I was traveling to the airport in Atlanta only about two hours before it began.

Penny Mills dropped everything when I called her after talking to Horton and attended the meeting. She recorded the video below.

The executive session ends at 23:39 in the video.

OCO: HLCMB 10 31 18 from Lee Becker on Vimeo.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

So...instead of a limited number of private, presumably wealthy land and home owners located downriver from the town of North High Shoals being affected by water withdrawal from the Apalachee (primarily by having their views altered by a lessened volume of water), the entire town, with all its natural beauty, will now be affected. Along with those same property owners. Nice work, Richy Rich: you've managed to take something bad for you and make it something bad for you and for everyone else. And kudos to North High Shoals council member Jason Presley. It's a nice payday for him and his, though the town he supposedly serves won't be nearly so well served by this deal.