The Hard Labor Creek Reservoir Management Board last week voted to approve the installation and maintenance of a flow monitoring station on the Apalachee River at Snows Mill Road, responding to a requirement of the Georgia Environmental Protection Division.
The new monitoring station will be a companion to the already existing station of the U.S. Geological Survey at Price Mill Road and will provided data on the impact of the water intake facility planned for the Apalachee River at High Shoals just upstream from the SR 186 bridge.
The planned intake facility will be used to provide additional water to the Hard Labor Creek Regional Reservoir at some point in the future when water demand exceeds the natural stream flow of Hard Labor Creek. At present, no water is being withdrawn from the reservoir.
Jimmy Parker, project manager for the reservoir, attributed the EPD requirement for the new monitoring station to pressure exerted by citizens during the review process for renewal of the permit to withdraw from the Apalachee River.
The EPD has provided a draft permit for that withdrawal, minus specific withdrawal amounts, and Parker said he expects a final document by early summer.
The Walton County Water and Sewer Authority, which holds the water withdrawal permit, also approved the installation and maintenance of the flow monitoring station at the joint meeting of the Management Board and Water and Sewer Authority last week.
Review Of Permit
“This was one point that I think the citizen input that EPD received was a big emphasis of theirs,” Parker told the Management Board and Water and Sewer Authority in explaining the need for the new monitoring station at Snows Mill Road, upstream from the planned intake facility.
“They wanted good baseline data so at the point you start withdrawing water there was good data to compare any effects on the river basin,” Parker said.
The existing station at Price Mill Road is downstream of the intake facility, but also downstream from Robinson Creek, a major tributary to the Apalachee River.
The Snows Mill Road monitoring station is upstream from the planned intake facility.
Parker told me in an email message today (Thursday) that Walton and Oconee counties, partners in the reservoir, will install additional water quality gauges just downstream of the shoals “beginning not less than three years prior to any water withdrawals from the Apalachee River.” The gauges, required by the EPD permit, will not measure flow.
The Management Board and Water and Sewer Authority meeting took place on Feb. 11 in the historic Walton County Courthouse in Monroe. Parker also is senior vice president at Precision Planning Inc. of Monroe.
Melba Cooper and Jack Rice, members of the Greater Apalachee River Community, attended the meeting.
The Greater Apalachee River Community (GARC) came into existence in response to the Water and Sewer Authority request for a renewal of its water withdrawal permit. GARC asked for additional monitoring of flow of the river.
The draft permit that Parker shared with the Management Board and Water and Sewer Authority stated that the initial permit set a yield of 13.3 million gallons per day from the reservoir during the stage when it is drawing exclusively on the Hard Labor Creek basin.
In the second stage, when the reservoir is converted to a pump storage reservoir using water from the Apalachee River as a supplement to the water from the Hard Labor Creek basin, the earlier permit set a yield of 41.4 million gallons per day.
The draft permit says these two figures have been updated, but in the document circulated by Parker the actual figures are not yet specified.
Parker said the yield rates “are currently being determined” based on new data submitted by consultants to the Management Board and the Water and Sewer Authority. The yield analysis is being redone based on the 2007 to 2008 drought, Parker said.
The new figures will not affect the permit, Parker said, but they will be a part of the drought contingencies for the two counties.
Parker said EPD “will review our comments” and the “EPD will issue a formal draft permit with a 30 day public comment period.
“We anticipate that will be somewhere in the March-April time frame,” Parker said, “and the final permit issuance likely around June of 2020.”
Monitoring Station Requirement
The permit states that a condition of its issuance is “Continuous daily streamflow monitoring on the Apalachee River both upstream of the intake (at Snows Mill Bridge crossing) and downstream of the intake (below the Lower High Shoals Dam at the existing USGS gage (sic) 02219000 near Price Mill Road below Robinson Creek).”
The Management Board and the Water and Sewer Authority approved a joint funding agreement with the U.S. Geological Survey for installation, maintenance and operation of the Snows Mill Road monitoring station.
The annual cost will be $15,100 per year, but the USGS essentially will own the station, Parker said.
Parker told the two governing bodies that discussion continues with the Army Corp of Engineers over how to handle the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) permit that the Water and Sewer acquired with the property on which the intake facility will be located.
Management Board Chair Mark Saxon said no decision has been made about when to proceed with actual construction of the shell of the intake facility. Saxon is an Oconee County commissioner.
The Management Board and Water and Sewer Authority also have not authorized construction of either a water treatment plant or a distribution system for treated water from the reservoir because neither Walton nor Oconee County needs water from the reservoir at present.
The video below is of the entire meeting of the Hard Labor Creek Reservoir Management Board and of the Walton County Water and Sewer Authority on Feb 11.
The room is large, and there are no microphones at the large table around which the Board and Authority gather.
I tried a new microphone, and switched back between two options for recording. The result is some break in the sound early in the video.
I subsequently amplified the audio while editing the video prior to uploading it.
Discussion of Apalachee River intake begins at 21:24 in the video and is followed by discussion of the water withdrawal permit renewal.