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1-6-07 Oconee Water needs and plans need public discussion and input –large impact on future

LET’S MOVE OCONEE PLANING OUT OF THE BACK ROOMS AND INTO THE LIGHT BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE!! BIG DEBT IS A LONG-TERM COMMITMENT. . Oconee public meeting (on water) will be in the commission's meeting chambers in the Oconee County Courthouse at 7 p.m. Jan 17.


January 6, 2007

Oconee Water needs and plans need public discussion and input –large impact on future


By Wendell Dawson, Editor, AVOC, Inc.


Oconee County seems to “announce” big water plans and jump from one to the other.This is a poor way to plan for the future.   Water planning and resources is a deliberate and costly process.It does not need to be decided in small meetings with Chairman Melvin Davis by Consultants and Developers.


We used Citizen Advisory Committees on Water and Sewer issues in the 1990’s in Oconee County.   There is a plethora of qualified and experienced citizen expertise in Oconee County.   A number of EPA, UGA, Atlanta Area employees (scientists-experts) live in Oconee County.Many of them are interested in serving and participating in the direction of Oconee County.


Fast Growth Policies have been foisted on Oconee Citizens with little public discussion or input.   We worked for years on Bear Creek Reservoir in Jackson County (and yes, there was much citizen involvement).It was intended to take care of Oconee Water Needs for decades.We are not using all of the first 4 MGPD allotted capacity and certainly not the 6 MGPD capacity we own there.Available capacity can be bought from other participants as we approach the end of our allotment.   We had time to plan and deliberate on the next step.



Bear Creek Plant and Reservoir Dedicated in 2002 designed for decades of water needs


Chairman Davis had been in office only a short while when we started Fast Growth policies and talking of big Water and Sewer Projects.   Think back over the last few years about the “projects” discussed:Walton Reservoir, Lake Oconee, Barnette Shoals Reservoir; increased LAS wastewater system at Eastville, a large sewer plant on the Oconee.



Oconee Chairman Melvin Davis


When one follows all the projects, one sees some names that appear in all the projects.Precision Engineering is a good company.They have a good, decent engineer who has worked with Oconee County.He lives in Walton County and is a friend of Chairman Little who is also an engineer.   (Some AVOC sources have speculated that Little may not run again but will go back into the “engineering business”).


Since the Press is not asking serious questions and many of the “big decisions” are being “announced”, Oconee Citizens need to get more involved.   It will take more than NIMBY involvement.   Too often, some will fight an idea because of its location.   The LAS project at Eastville had much public and press opposition, even Atlanta Journal-Constitution and TV.   Now some of the opponents have been happy with the development and some have even profited.



Eastville LAS Project (Rocky Branch) - Took years and much Public and Press Criticism- Some critics later profited


The County has needs for the future.It needs involvement of public spirited citizen experts.   We need some stronger leadership and consensus building.While big decisions are being made, we are also incurring large debt and future commitments with little public discussion.






8-2-06 Walton County looking at ‘reduced’ version of Reservoir

12.29.05 Walton County gives Oconee more time on Hard Labor Creek project

2-15-06 Oconee County votes to withdraw from Walton deal and build own reservoir at Oconee River

3-3-06 Oconee Sewer Capacity- Cost & "Cart before the horse”.. Eastville WWF Expansion

3-8-06 More details on Oconee - “Walton Reservoirs“ Financing etc.

4-24-06 Oconee Barnett Shoals Reservoir Project is huge undertaking PART 1

4-28-06 Oconee Barnett Shoals Reservoir Project is huge undertaking PART 2

2-23-06 Walton hires new counsel with water reservoir experience -Kirby Atkinson- A good man

5-25-06 Update on Walton County reservoir and water resources

8-2-06 Walton County looking at ‘reduced’ version of Reservoir

1-5-06 Oconee BOC to have “public meeting” to present ‘facts’ on Water Plans


The Athens Banner-Herald



January 4, 2007


Reservoir options will be presented to public


By Lee Shearer


WATKINSVILLE - Oconee County leaders have set a Jan. 17 public meeting to present the facts about a looming decision: Where will Oconee County get its drinking water in the future?

Consultants will present cost, timelines and other information about two multimillion-dollar reservoir and water plant projects that county leaders are considering, according to Commission Chairman Melvin Davis.

The planners also will talk briefly about other options engineers have considered, such as piping water from Lake Oconee, he said.

Oconee officials had started to plan a 12 million-gallon-per-day reservoir off Barnett Shoals Road, but learned in December that the reservoir would cost about $ 108 million - significantly more than an earlier estimate.

The news forced commissioners to reconsider joining with Walton County to build a reservoir on Hard Labor Creek.

That reservoir would produce about the same amount of water and cost Oconee County water users about the same - $ 104.9 million of the project's overall $ 352.8 million estimated cost, according to senior project manager Jimmy Parker of Lawrenceville's Precision Planning, Inc.

Oconee would pay for its share in two phases, rather than all at once, according to an outline Parker showed at Tuesday evening's Oconee County Commission meeting.

In the first phase, Oconee would pay $ 45.6 million to build a reservoir, a water treatment plant and water lines capable of supplying an average of about 3.4 million gallons of water per day. Walton would get 8.6 million gallons a day in the first phase, Parker said.

In a second phase, between 2030 and 2050, Oconee would pay an additional $ 59.3 million to expand the plant and water transmission facilities, according to financial projections that Parker presented to commissioners. After the expansion, Oconee would get 12 million gallons a day and Walton would take 30 million gallons daily.

The Barnett Shoals project also could be completed in two phases, but phase I in the Barnett Shoals project would cost an estimated $ 78 million, Davis said.

The Hard Labor Creek project also is likely to begin producing water sooner than the Barnett Shoals option, Davis said. According to Parker, a Hard Labor Creek water treatment plant could begin producing treated water in 2013 or 2014.

Leaders will consider a third difference in the two reservoir options: Oconee would be the sole owner of the Barnett Shoals reservoir and treatment plant, while Walton would own more of the Hard Labor Creek project.

Davis said he thinks the two governments can reach an agreement that will protect the interests of both sides, however.

Oconee talked with officials from Walton County about the Hard Labor Creek project for years, but last year backed off as the county pursued the Barnett Shoals plan, which at first seemed less costly than the joint project with Walton County.

Walton County has pressed on, and already has spent about $ 9.3 in permitting fees, land acquisition and other costs, Parker said.

If you go

The public meeting will be in the commission's meeting chambers in the Oconee County Courthouse at 7 p.m. Jan 17.

Oconee Returning to Walton County Water Talks

The Walton Tribune



December 31, 2006

Oconee returns to water talks

By Robbie Schwartz


WALTON COUNTY — First they were in, then they were out, now it looks like they may be in again.

After abandoning the Hard Labor Creek Reservoir project, a meeting this week between Walton County and Oconee County officials may find the neighbors to the east re-joining the multi-million dollar water project in some capacity.

We had a meeting with them Thursday morning and they have asked that our engineers present the updated information about the project to their board of commissioners Jan. 2 and that they would decide some time in the middle of February whether they are going to re-join the Hard Labor Creek reservoir,” Walton County Board of Commissioners Chairman Kevin Little said.

Last year, Oconee County was set to be a partner in the Hard Labor Creek reservoir to the tune of $ 100 million for 12 million gallons of water a day.

But they walked away from the commitment in hopes of seeking a better option — their own reservoir off Barnett Shoals Road. With an initial projected cost of $ 55 million excluding land costs, the Barnett Shoals reservoir was going to be a much more viable option than spending almost twice that for the same amount of water from a water supply more than 20 miles away.

At a Dec. 20 meeting, though, the Oconee County Board of Commissioners learned that projected costs for the Barnett Shoals reservoir would be in the neighborhood of $ 108 million.

Thrown in with the fact that the Hard Labor Creek project already has permits approved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as well as the state’s Environmental Protection Division, a process that takes time, Oconee County officials wanted to re-visit the Hard Labor Creek project to see which is fiscally more responsible.

“What we are doing, we are looking at all of the alternatives,” Oconee County Board of Commissioners Chairman Melvin Davis said. “We recently received updated calculations to do our own reservoir that were higher than initially expected. Now we want to explore the options that we have as being a potential partner or customer with the Hard Labor Creek project and our own reservoir project, calculate the costs with each and see what is going to be best for Oconee County citizens.”

Walton County officials have positioned themselves to enter into the bond market in either January or February for the initial $ 78 million of the project, which includes monies to pay down debt as well as get the ball rolling on the Hard Labor Creek reservoir. Costs for the reservoir alone are projected at $ 108 million, with total costs including paying off debt is projected at $ 148 million. The county has already spent $ 9 million thus far on the project.

12-21-06 Oconee Water Future being discussed - $00 Million Cost


The Athens Banner Herald



December 21, 2006


County reservoir more costly than first anticipated -Oconee Commission


By Merritt Melancon

WATKINSVILLE - The Oconee County Commission learned Tuesday that a proposed reservoir off of Barnett Shoals Road will cost about $ 50 million more than first projected, forcing commissioners to take a second look at a regional reservoir plan once dubbed too expensive.

Last summer, commissioners all but abandoned plans to partner with Walton County and Winder to build a reservoir on Hard Labor Creek in Walton County. In that plan, the county would have contributed about $ 100 million to the $ 462 million project to receive about 12 million gallons of water a day.

Around July, commissioners decided that a better option was to build a 1 billion gallon reservoir just outside Watkinsville off Barnett Shoals Road instead of spending $ 100 million to share a reservoir located 20 miles outside of the county.

At that time, the Barnett Shoals reservoir was projected to cost about $ 55 million to construct, not counting the cost of the land, and would provide the same amount of water as the Walton County project.

But further engineering work now predicts the Barnett Shoals reservoir would cost $08 million to construct, including the cost of the land, Wayne Haynie, a consulting engineer with Jordan, Jones & Goulding engineering firm, told commissioners Tuesday.

"Yes, we were surprised," said Commission Chairman Melvin Davis. "We thought it would be much less than that."

Choosing the regional reservoir would mean higher operating costs, since water would have to be pumped about 20 miles to Oconee County's water distribution system, Haynie said.

On the other hand, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the state Environmental Protection Division already have approved permits for the Hard Labor Creek reservoir project. The Barnett Shoals site has not been permitted - a process that can take years.

"Obviously, with the closeness of the cost involved, I think the board (of commissioners) is weighing both options carefully," Davis said. "It's a considerable amount of expense with both options, so we want to take the time to make the best decision."

Davis said he doesn't think any commissioners have decided which project to support, but they should do so in coming months.

11-23-06 Walton BOC proceeding with Hard Labor Creek Reservoir Plans


The Walton Tribune



November 22, 2006


$8 million Hard Labor Creek bond in line


By Robbie Schwartz


WALTON COUNTY — County officials expect to go to the bond market early next year for the first $8 million of the Hard Labor Creek Reservoir.

“This Board of Commissioners feels that for the future of Walton County we have to obtain a water supply. It is the most critical need,” Chairman Kevin Little said days after officials from Citigroup presented the board with initial plans for financing the $ 105 million reservoir. “We felt like the previous Walton County Water and Sewerage Authority did their homework, we brought in our own people and we have arrived at the fact that Walton County can build this reservoir and do it without being a burden to the taxpayers of Walton County.”

A sizable chunk of the initial bond amount — close to $ 38 million — is to close out a total of five outstanding bonds dating back to 1989 that includes the county’s stake in the Varner Lake reservoir in Newton County as well as other bonds for funds to meet infrastructure needs.

The remaining estimated $ 40 million will be used to acquire land and the building of a dam. County officials said they have continued to fine-tune the proposal, and with the recent downsizing of the water treatment capabilities to 8 million gallons a day as well as the addition of SPLOST funds to be used for the upgrading and installation of water lines throughout the county, they have reached a point where the reservoir is financially feasible.

The total project estimates are at $ 185 million, though it will only take $ 105 million for the reservoir to start producing water for county residents. The remaining funds will be used for infrastructure needs and can be delayed as more and more customers come online.

The financial proposal has projected that during the leanest years, the county would still have $ 1.20 for every $ 1 spent to pay debt — essentially that the WCWSA and the project would allow for a net revenue of 120 percent. After the initial $ 78 million, in 2009 another bond will be taken out for $ 96 million to build the water treatment plant and a final $ 11 million in 2014 for pipe laying and other infrastructure needs, officials said.

The total capital improvement plan calls for $ 154 million for the WCWSA. The county is currently $ 9 million into the deal with their Environmental Permit in hand, according to Little. On Oct. 13, county officials met with officials from the U.S. Corps of Engineers and the Georgia EPD to review the status of their permit since Oconee County and the City of Winder pulled out of the deal. Expressing a desire to start building the reservoir independently in January 2007, neither the Corps of Engineers nor the EPD have objections to the county proceeding with the project alone.

The next steps include negotiating with Oconee County and City of Winder officials because they are providing site mitigation wetlands. Officials also indicated that they hope to, once the 2006 audit is complete, to go to the bond market for the first bond early next year. During either its November of December meetings, officials expect to finalize and vote to move forward with the bond.

11-30-06 Monroe considering water source upgrades


The Walton Tribune


November 29, 2006

Monroe leaning toward Briscoe upgrade

By Brian Arrington

MONROE — City officials said they will likely follow the recommendations contained in a recently released raw water master plan — a move that could provide the city with its own water source for decades to come.

“The Raw Water Master Plan,” prepared by engineering firm Hofstadter and Associates, Inc., concluded the city would be best served if it were to build a raw water pump station on the Apalachee River and a transmission line to transport water from the river to the existing Briscoe Reservoir, increasing its current water intake.

The plan also calls for upgrading current water pumps and mains from to the existing intake to the city’s water treatment plant.

The plan is slated to cost $ 7.2 million, the report reads.

“(The plan) will take care of our water needs,” Mayor Greg Thompson said. “The City of Monroe will be pretty well set. We need to take care of our residents.”

Currently the Briscoe reservoir has a minimum safe yield of 6.93 million gallons per day, according to the Schnabel Engineering report, However, with the upgrade, up to 8.1 million gallons per day can be safely drawn.

The water treatment plant will also be upgraded to handle 12.5 million gallons per day, if the city follows Hofstadter’s recommendation.

The $ 7.2 million project would be covered by “past and future” Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax funds, according to city officials.

The plant upgrade is slated to cost $ 2 million, infrastructure construction $ million and engineering and inspection contingencies could cost $ 1.2 million, according to the report.

Currently the city operates Briscoe Lake — a 330-acre reservoir with a pump station on the Alcovy River. The city is permitted by the state to use 10 million gallons of water per day and is using about half that, according to the report. The city sells about 56 percent of the water from the Briscoe Reservoir to Walton County.

The city serves about 8,230 customers, but according to the county’s Comprehensive Plan, Monroe is expected to reach a population of 39,750 by 2050 — meaning 4 million gallons per day would be needed to serve its residents. With customers outside the city limits and a projected spike in commercial growth, the city could use 8 million gallons of water per day.

While the report urges city officials to research the water needs of surrounding communities to create a possible regional water source, it states, “the ultimate conclusions drawn from this report will be based on the best interest of the city of Monroe and its residents.”

The report also suggests the city begin to acquire land permits that would allow the raising of Briscoe lake 10 feet and its capacity to 19 million gallons per day. That would raise the safe yield to 12 million gallons per day and cost an estimated $5.4 million.

However, if the city begins to work with Walton County or other governmental entities in an effort to supply water, the report recommends it build a 1,200-acre reservoir on Jacks Creek and construct an intake on the Apalachee producing a safe yield of 31.9 million gallons per day at a cost of $ 85.3 million if a diversion to the Apalachee is included.

City officials said they are intent on moving forward with the $ 7.2 million option first as factors like permits for all projects will take some time.