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7-3-02 Bear Creek Reservoir is State Model & Result of Efforts of Many

Regionalism is a popular term but in practice it is tough to bring about because of turf protection of all participants. ......... Bear Creek is a testament to the foresight and dedication of many area leaders over the last 15 years. We need to remember those who are now deceased or retired but played critical roles when it was needed.


July 3, 2007


History:Bear Creek Result of Efforts of Many


By Wendell Dawson, Editor, AVOC, Inc


Bear Creek Reservoir is the result of efforts of lots of folks. From Jackson County, Henry Robinson, as Chairman, was supportive early on and helped select the site in the early 80’s. When he retired, he was succeeded by Bill Mahaffey who was very supportive. He worked closely with me to make sure that we got things going and that Athens did not control the project.


Bill died in Office and the candidates for the special election met with me, Elton Collins, Jim Dove and Dan Gunnells to discuss their support. Jerry Waddell was elected and took about a year to get up to speed but did participate in the drafting of the intergovernmental agreements and the legislation creating the Upper Oconee Basin Water Authority which came into existence in 1994. Later Pat Bell represented Jackson County and helped ‘push’ the project to completion.


Hildred Waits of Barrow County was cooperative along with Gwen O’Looney of Athens-Clarke. Hildred, Jerry, Gwen and I represented our counties when the agreements were signed in July 1996 at a meeting at the Oconee Civic Center.

At that time we learned that we had gotten the Corps 404 Permit.


Around this time we were told by Athens that they would not be a full partner. They would own 43% of the reservoir but would not participate in the Treatment Plant or the Bond Issue. I came to believe that they had been less than forthcoming with us. In fact, once when Jerry Waddell threatened to pull out, the Clarke County Folks showed us their contingency plan to build a reservoir in Athens-Clarke County near Bogart. This had been kept secret from the rest of us.


Bob Snipes was a good member who brought technical expertise to the project. As one who spent 12 years with the process and the first six years as the Authority Chairman, I do not share Mr. Snipes’ optimism about the water supply being adequate for the next 50 years. It may be for Athens-Clarke but certainly not Oconee and Barrow and probably not Jackson. The initial group in 1987-8 established the percentages of participation based on mid-eighties statistics which were outdated before construction started in 1998.


Athens-Clarke needed a “back-up” water supply but never “gave up” its old grand-fathered withdrawal permits of approximately 29 mgd coming directly from the Oconee and Middle Oconee Rivers. Athens-Clarke was the largest city in Georgia without a reservoir. Many of us saw that Clarke needed the water but could never build the reservoir in Jackson County without the help and direct involvement of the other counties. As Chairman, I often had to take a firm stand. I believe that all the parties saw me as thinking regionally and being fair to all participants.


I have often described my role as being dual: “making sure that Athens-Clarke with more funds did not dominate the partnership” and then making sure the other counties did not “gang-up” on Athens-Clarke County. It took much “give and take” by all of us to get it done. I have often said that I often wondered if “God intended for four counties to work together”. We lost members and momentum on several critical occasions.


The project can be a model. It is certainly a monument to patience, compromise and the pooling of resources. Regionalism is a popular term but in practice it is tough to bring about because of turf protection of all participants.


Bear Creek is a testament to the foresight and dedication of many area leaders over the last 15 years. We need to remember those who are now deceased or retired but played critical roles when it was needed.

The Athens Banner-Herald http://www.onlineathens.com/

Thursday, June 27, 2002

Bear Creek a model for state
County officials tour new reservoir
By Lee Shearer

  Athens-Clarke County Deputy Manager Bob Snipes, one of the leaders in the effort to establish the Bear Creek Reservoir, tours the reservoir's treatment plant during a Wednesday open house. Development of the 505-acre reservoir, which serves Athens-Clarke, Oconee, Barrow and Jackson counties, has been touted as a model for regional cooperation. Dot Paul/Staff

Smiling commissioners from four area counties got a look at their counties' water future Wednesday: the Bear Creek Reservoir and water treatment plant, designed to meet the area's water needs for the next half-century.
The elected officials were at the reservoir Wednesday for an open house -- barbecue from Charlie Williams' Pinecrest Lodge and a tour conducted by plant manager Kevin Williams of Azurix-JJG, the private company contracted to run the operation.
Owned by Barrow, Jackson, Oconee and Athens-Clarke counties,
the 505-acre reservoir, off Georgia Highway 330 in southern Jackson County, has a become kind of statewide model for regional cooperation and planning -- even if it did take about 20 years from conception to completion -- said Athens-Clarke Commissioner Cardee Kilpatrick, who was among about two dozen officials on the tour.
The four counties joined together in the dam and reservoir portion of the project, at a cost of about $6 million. Three of them -- Jackson, Oconee and Barrow -- pooled their money to build a treatment plant at the site, at an additional cost of $8 million. Athens-Clarke County already had a water treatment plant, and pumps raw water from the reservoir to the plant in Athens.
The reservoir is only producing about 4 million gallons a day right now, about 2 million gallons a day of treated water each to Oconee and Jackson counties, Williams said.

  Treatment plant manager Kevin Williams reviews the functions of a control panel with guests during a Wednesday open house at Bear Creek in Jackson County. Dot Paul/Staff

Barrow County should begin drawing a similar amount within a week or two, as soon as the county gets its system ready to accept the new supply, he said.
According to Kilpatrick, a lot of the credit for the project has to go to Bob Snipes, a longtime local government administrator who is now Athens-Clarke deputy manager.
''We owe a lot to Bob because he was the one with the vision, and he stuck to it through the entire process,''
she said.
According to Snipes,
the hardest part of developing the regional reservoir was building trust among leaders in the three smaller counties that Clarke County, by far the most populous of the four,
wasn't trying to be the dominant partner.
It was a lot easier to sell the concept of a regional reservoir after the prolonged drought of the late 1980s, Snipes said.
''They very quickly came to understand what this meant for their community's future,'' he said.
Starting in the 1980s, planners looked at trends in population growth and water consumption in the four counties, he said.
So far, those projections have been reasonably accurate, even though Barrow, Jackson and Oconee are among the state's fastest-growing counties, Snipes said.
Assuming the counties can reduce per-capita water use by about 17.5 percent over the next 50 years, and assuming the population projections remain reasonably accurate
, Bear Creek should be able to supply enough water to meet the four counties' additional water needs until 2048, Snipes said.

505 acres
Production capacity:
53 million gallons of water a day (MGD).
Water treatment plant production capacity: 21 MGD now, expandable to 45 MGD.

Current production:
About 4 million gallons of water a day -- 2 million to Jackson County, 2 million to Oconee County. Barrow is expected to come on line within two weeks.
Began October 1998.

Cost: Reservoir,
$ 36 million, water treatment plant $ 28 million.
Athens-Clarke County owns the rights to 44 percent of the raw water
produced from the reservoir. The rest of the reservoir capacity is owned by Barrow County (19 percent), Jackson County (25 percent) and Oconee County (12 percent). Oconee, Jackson and Barrow counties own the water treatment plant. Athens-Clarke will pipe raw water to its own treatment plant in Athens.