Walton County has touted the value of the water in the Hard Labor Creek Regional Reservoir for economic development in a $115.5 application for federal relief funds it has submitted for construction of a water treatment plant and distribution system for the reservoir.
The county submitted the application for the Oct. 31 deadline, and on Dec. 16 Gov. Brian Kemp announced that the state had put together an incentive package to lure electric vehicle manufacturer Rivian to a site straddling the Walton and Morgan county lines along I-20.
The state has not revealed the details of the incentive package for Rivian, but water and sewer are an essential part.
“The Newton County Water and Sewerage Authority is grateful to partner with Rivian and once again the Joint Development Authority of Stanton Springs for a landmark opportunity,” according to the Dec. 16 news release from the Governor’s Office.
At present, Walton County gets some of its water from the Newton County Water and Sewer Authority, and the grant application notes that the Hard Labor Creek Regional Reservoir could provide water to that system.
The decisions on awarding of the federal funds have not been announced, but the review committee appointed by Kemp is dominated by administrators and legislators likely to look favorably on the Walton County application.
Oconee County partnered with Oconee County in 2008 to obtain water for future residential water needs in the county, and Oconee County Board of Commissioners Chair John Daniell wrote a letter of support for the Walton County application on behalf of the whole Board.
The Walton County Proposal calls for an investment of $30.5 million in local money, but the application states that Walton County “proposes to invest” the local funds. No mention is made of an Oconee County contribution.
Nature Of Request
Oconee County’s partnership with Walton County calls for Oconee County to shoulder 28.8 percent of the costs of the reservoir and its operation and to receive that same percentage of the water from the reservoir.
|Map Submitted With Walton County Grant Application|
While the reservoir has been completed and filed with water from the Hard Labor Creek basin, neither Oconee County nor Walton County has needed the water, so no treatment plant or distribution system has been built.
According to the grant application, the two counties have invested $85 million to date. Oconee County water and sewer customers are paying for that investment through their water bills, as no Oconee County general funds are used for the reservoir project.
Walton County is asking the state to give it $80 million in relief funding for construction of the water treatment plant and raw water intake pump station.
In addition, Walton County is asking for $35.5 million in relief funding for a water transmission system.
“Walton County also proposes to invest an additional $30.5 million towards construction of the regional water transmission system improvements, to convey treated water to potential customers,” according to the submitted application.
“These proposed current and previous investments of $115.5 million by Walton and Oconee County represent 50 percent of the total project costs,” the application states.
The Walton County application says that the water treatment facility and intake pump station have a capacity of 16 million gallons per day, which is the volume the reservoir can produce with water from the Hard Labor Creek basin.
The reservoir can be used as pump and store facility, however, with water drawn from the Apalachee River. The Walton County Water and Sewer Authority holds a withdrawal permit for that river.
“Walton and Oconee County have previously acquired and currently own all required property for ultimate buildout of the proposed water treatment facility to 62 MGD,” according to the application.
“The Apalachee River diversion and raw water intake is currently under design, with construction anticipated in the fall of 2022,” it states.
The Walton County Water and Sewer Authority, which actually owns the reservoir, does not have lines from the Apalachee River to the reservoir.
The biggest impact of a successful application likely would be increased pressure to move forward with actual withdrawal of waters from the Apalachee River.
Time Line And Review
Walton and Oconee County will begin clearing and grubbing activities on the water treatment facility site as soon as funds are awarded, according to the application.
Construction on the water treatment plant would begin late this year, the county said.
“Based on the accelerated project schedule, and current industrial interest along the I-20 corridor, the expected completion date of the proposed 16 MGD water treatment facility would be April 2024,” according to the application.
Award announcements for the funds from the American Rescue Plan are expected to begin on or before Jan. 30.
In June, when Kemp announced the review committees he said state government entities, units of local government, industries, and nonprofits would be eligible to apply.
"Today, I am naming a bipartisan group of state leaders to three Georgia Jobs and Infrastructure Committees focused on broadband, water and sewer infrastructure, and the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic," Kemp said in the news release.
"These committees will ensure federal coronavirus relief dollars are allocated strategically across our state and address one-time funding needs in these three key areas."
The 16-member Water and Sewer Infrastructure Committee consists of elected and appointed state officials and seven legislators, one of whom is a Democrat.
Letters Of Support
“As Walton County's partner in the Hard Labor Creek Regional Reservoir project, the Oconee County Board of Commissioners submits this letter to express its full support for the Walton County Board of Commissioners' Fiscal Recovery Fund Application,” Oconee Commission Chair Daniell wrote in a letter dated Aug. 18.
“Our region is experiencing tremendous growth, and the Water Treatment Facility will help us ensure a high quality of life and economic prosperity not only for our citizens, businesses and industries, but for the entire Northeast Georgia region,” the letter continues.
Oconee County separately has submitted an application to the same review committee for $23.5 million an upgrade and expansion of its wastewater treatment facility.
Bill Cowsert, who represents Oconee County and parts of Walton County in the state Senate, also wrote in support of the application, as did Bruce Williamson, who represents the 115th House District, which includes most of Walton County.
The application also includes a letter of support from Brittany Young, Chief Operating Officer, and Andrew Capezzuto, Chief Administrative Officer, of the Georgia Department of Economic Development.
“Completing these projects will increase existing capacity and lay the groundwork for future capacity improvements,” the letter states.
“These much needed infrastructure investments will result in Walton County, and several of its neighboring counties, having increased water and sewer capacity for several developable tracts of land, including the East Atlanta Mega Site in Newton County,” according to the letter.
Rivian plans to locate in that East Atlanta site along I-20 that straddles the Walton and Morgan county lines.
The site is between Social Circle and Rutledge and will become a northern extension of the Stanton Springs industrial complex that already includes a Takeda therapeutics factory and a Facebook data center.
“Rivian will create approximately 7,500 jobs on just under 2,000 acres located at the site known as the East Atlanta Megasite, represented by the Joint Development Authority of Jasper, Morgan, Newton, and Walton counties,” according to Kemp’s news release on Dec. 16.
“Once manufacturing operations are fully ramped up, the Georgia facility will be capable of producing up to 400,000 vehicles per year,” according to the release. “Rivian’s manufacturing plant represents the single-largest economic development project in state history,” the release continues.
Construction on the facility is expected to begin in summer 2022, and the start of production is slated for 2024, according to the release.