Public comment sought on Glades Reservoir

By Jane Harrison

The public has an opportunity to comment on the potential social, economic and environmental impact of the proposed Glades Reservoir planned by Hall County 12 miles northeast of Gainesville. The reservoir, which has been in the planning stages since about 2007, is proposed as a needed water supply for Hall County through 2060. If it becomes operational, the water system is projected for an output of 80 million gallons a day.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Savannah District opened the public comment period Feb. 17 to accept input on the project that would construct an 850-acre reservoir on Flat Creek near the US 23/365 intersection with State Route 52. Those desiring to comment may do so via internet at www.gladesreservoir.com, by mail, or in a public scoping meeting set for March 20 at Gainesville State College. Deadline to submit comments is April 17.

A description of the project appears on the website and will be presented at the March 20 scoping session during which experts involved in various phases of the project will set up informational displays, according to Billy Birdwell, public affairs officer with the Corps Savannah District.

A record of public comments submitted by late February was not available at press time. Birdwell said the Corps could not access comments already filed, nor could it provide a count of comments received at that time.

Public comment is being sought for input into the Environmental Impact Statement, which is required to evaluate how the proposed reservoir might affect social, economic and environmental factors. The Corps of Engineers is responsible for evaluating and issuing permits that involve construction that may deposit dredged or fill material into U.S. waters.

The proposed reservoir has been presented by the Hall County Commission as a necessary water supply alternative to Lake Lanier, a federal reservoir subject to withdrawal limitations imposed by federal mandates and at the center of decades-old water wars between Georgia, Florida and Alabama. The Chattahoochee River, which originates in Georgia, flows into Lanier and is released from Buford Dam en route to the Flint and Apalachicola river systems that hydrate eastern Alabama and the Florida panhandle.

Hall County has already spent more than $10 million in property acquisition, engineering costs and construction fees on the Glades Reservoir project, which may require years to complete the environmental permitting phase and additional years to complete construction. In January, the county commission approved a $10,000 per month fee to its most recent consultant, Joe Tanner & Associates. This amount undercut previous consulting fees by several thousand dollars a month.

The actual cost of the system has been projected to reach as high as $300 million if the county were to go through with early plans to pipe Glades Reservoir water to Forsyth County, as was once planned. Hall County Public Information Officer Nikki Young reported those plans are off the table. Efforts to contact Hall County Commission Chairman Tom Oliver and District 3 Commissioner Scott Gibbs, in whose district the project lies, were unsuccessful at press time. An updated cost estimate for the entire project was not available.

The proposed reservoir has attracted the attention of environmental groups, the Georgia Water Coalition and Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, and is being watched by the Lake Lanier Association.

The Georgia Water Coalition listed it among its “Dirty Dozen” water concerns in 2011. Citing a high price tag and concern that it would “siphon massive quantities of water from the Chattahoochee River immediately above Lake Lanier,” the coalition derides the reservoir as unnecessary expense with potential negative impact on Lanier.

Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper Executive Director Sally Bethea said the environmental organization plans to “be actively involved in the entire permitting review process.” The group will be studying the potential impact to Flat Creek, a tributary to Lanier, and will be evaluating how it could ultimately affect the lake.

“From what I’ve learned thus far, there is no need or justification” for the project, she said. She added that she expects the permitting phase to “take a long time.” The environmental group has pushed for alternatives, such as conservation, to building reservoirs.

The Lake Lanier Association has not taken a position, according to Executive Director Joanna Cloud. In a written statement, Cloud said the organization which advocates for a full lake had no qualms with the original proposal to pump six million gallons per day from the proposed reservoir; however, questions arose when the proposed amount increased to 80 million gallons per day.

The organization is concerned about “how the water in Glades would be managed, especially during droughts since it would be a private operation outside the control of the Corps of Engineers.” She added there are also concerns about potential water loss to Lanier during drought when water would be pumped into Glades to maintain a full reservoir. “That could be water that does not flow into Lanier during critical times when Lanier is under stress to meet its own needs and is called upon to meet downstream water requirements,” she said.

LLA advocates increasing the full pool of Lanier to 1073 feet above sea level, which it states could create an additional storage of “26 billion gallons that would be available for all authorized purposes of Lanier,” Cloud said.

Glade Reservoir Information & Input

Info and public comment: www.gladesreservoir.com

Mail comments: US Army Corps of Engineers, ATTN: Regulatory Division, 100 West Oglethorpe Ave, Savannah, GA 31401

Public comment period: Through April 17.

Public scoping meeting: 4-8 p.m. March 20, Gainesville State College, 3820 Mundy Mill Rd. Additional public scoping meetings are scheduled 4-8 p.m. March 21 at Lexington Auburn University Convention Center, 1577 South College St., Auburn, Ala., and 4-8 p.m. March 22 at Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve, 108 Island Dr., Eastpoint, Fla.

Read more at: http://www.lakesidenews.com/Story12.htm

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