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7-29-10 Important Water Issues for area - Jackson County wins appeal in Reservoir Lawsuit

Jackson County’s suit was met by a Motion to Dismiss by the Upper Oconee Basin Water Authority. A local Superior Court Judge did not grant the motion to dismiss. Recently, the Georgia Court of Appeals upheld the judge’s ruling. ….. …….. Oconee County made a huge mistake in getting involved with the Hard Labor Creek Project in Walton County. Treatment facilities and supply lines were already in place and owned at Bear Creek Reservoir in Jackson County……

AVOC

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July 24, 2010

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Important Water Issues for area - Jackson County wins appeal in Reservoir Lawsuit

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By Wendell Dawson, Editor, AVOC, Inc

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While Oconee’s leadership was chasing a “big dream reservoir” at Hard Labor Creek at significant cost, the Bear Creek Reservoir Authority, Chaired by Oconee’s Melvin Davis, was becoming fractured with a lawsuit by Jackson County and all counties seeking additional water sites.  

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Jackson County’s suit was met by a Motion to Dismiss by the Upper Oconee Basin Water Authority.  A local Superior Court Judge did not grant the motion to dismiss.   Recently, the Georgia Court of Appeals upheld the judge’s ruling.   Jackson County takes the position that the capacity figures everyone relied on for the reservoir were overstated – only 44 percent of what the authority had considered the capacity.

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Rather than fight Jackson County’s figures, the Authority should have come together to determine which capacity figures are correct.   Instead a suit resulted and everyone went elsewhere looking for water.

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Oconee County made a huge mistake in getting involved with the Hard Labor Creek Project in Walton County.    Treatment facilities and supply lines were already in place and owned at Bear Creek Reservoir in Jackson County.   The money all counties have spent and will spend for more water would have been better spent in seeking an additional water source in Jackson County.   It may still be a better alternative if our leaders would try to work together within the framework of the Upper Oconee Basin Water Authority.

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The economy and other challenges have basically put the Walton County Project on hold.   Sources have recently told AVOC that none of the major landowners have yet to be contacted.   Oconee should think hard about the direction it wants to proceed.   A big mistake can become even bigger in time to come.

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Court of Appeals upholds reservoir lawsuit ruling

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Jackson Herald -Wednesday, July 21. 2010

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The Georgia Court of Appeals upheld Judge Joe Booth’s July 14 ruling rejecting a motion by the Upper Oconee Basin Water Authority to dismiss Jackson County’s suit over the capacity of the Bear Creek Reservoir.

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That, says board of commissioners chairman Hunter Bicknell, bodes well for the county as its lawsuit progresses.
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“The detail they went into in upholding Judge Booth’s ruling gives the county a pretty good position going forward,” said Bicknell Monday.
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Meanwhile, a Jackson County proposal to settle the suit could be completed in the next two or three weeks. Essentially, the offer will provide the data gathered by an engineering consultant making the case that the actual capacity of the lake is about 44 percent of what the authority has historically claimed the lake could provide.
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Jackson County sued last year, alleging that data used since day one to determine the capacity of the reservoir — and thus the amount of water to which each owner is entitled — is deeply flawed.
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The authority, of which Jackson County is a member, filed a motion to dismiss the suit on several grounds. Booth rejected the motion in a hearing in the Superior Court of Jackson County, the authority appealed, but the Court of Appeals upheld Booth’s rulings — and the county’s position — on each point.
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Following that hearing, the authority issued a settlement offer proposing an eventual determination of capacity, but nothing specific, according to Bicknell.


BACKGROUND

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4-23-10 Water and Growth projections and decisions have consequences for Oconee County

http://www.avoc.info/info/article.php?article=4084

Lee Becker reported on proposed rate increases for Oconee County water and sewer customers.   I have shared that article and its comments with interested Oconee County Citizens.    Oconee is strained now because of a rush to grow fast.   The Hard Labor Creek Project is a burden that our county will pay for mightily over many years.  Lee Becker’s research brings valuable information to citizens who are not informed very well in the local media.

…..We should not fault the Utility Department about pending increases in Water and Sewer in Oconee County.  It is the fault of county management that committed us to the ill-advised Hard Labor Creek Project and ran lines haphazardly, chasing development , and incurring too much debt for our small county.    More and more problems will come from the 'fast growth policies" and misjudgments of the Davis Administrations- largely ignored by local media.  

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9-12-09 Hard Labor Creek Reservoir Update – Land Acquisition, Water Flow, Atlanta Source?

http://www.avoc.info/info/article.php?article=4032

….On September 9, some interested Oconee County Citizens and I visited Walton County for two purposes:

1. To tour the Walton County Courthouse that was moved from downtown Monroe a few years ago;

2. Look at maps and visit the area of the Hard Labor Creek Reservoir project and actually view the water flow in Hard Labor Creek at the proposed Dam Site.

……………………We talked to some knowledgeable sources and learned much from the visit.About 2,200 acres are needed for the reservoir site, 1300 + or – for the pool and 150 feet of buffer around the high water mark.   About 42 % of the land area has been acquired.   Five hundred acres of that 900 + or - , was purchased many months ago from an entity involving Hennessey Cadillac at $ 9,000.00 per acre……..

…….The site is located in a rural area.   That area of Walton County has much more active farms than does Oconee County.   There are four major property owners who have not been approached.   Sources say they are not happy about the reservoir and have the resources to resist condemnation.  The land involved is considered more desirable and expensive than much that has been acquired.   Much is left to be done to acquire the land needed.   Eventually, a road will be relocated and two bridges are planned.

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RESIDENTIAL DEVELOPMENT MAPPED ALREADY

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The proposed reservoir will have 47 miles of shore line.   While the site is in a rural area, the tax map of the site shows many residential lots already marked out, especially southwest and northerly of the reservoir.   SEE: Hard Labor Creek Reservoir Site Map.  

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9-28-08 Real leadership and vision needed with Bear Creek – UOBWA problems

http://www.avoc.info/info/article.php?article=3943

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….Jackson County is on the verge of litigation against its partners in Bear Creek Reservoir.   The Authority has not properly addressed Jackson’s concerns that Athens-Clarke and Oconee are using Jackson water allocations without paying for it.    The Jackson Herald on September 24, 2008, had vivid details about Jackson County’s position.

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Authority Chairman Melvin Davis holds a lot of Executive Sessions in Oconee County.   UOBWA, under Davis’s leadership, recently tried to exclude Jackson County, a member, from a “closed meeting”.     Jackson County did not go along.  Jackson County’s attorney, former Attorney General Michael Bowers, threatened to sue if Jackson was excluded.   Jackson officials were allowed to attend the meeting but Attorney Bowers was excluded.   We will hear more about this……..

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9-26-08 Water War declared by Jackson County wit.pdf x

County ponders sale of waterfront house – Walton Tribune 9-16-09

http://www.waltontribune.com/story.lasso?ewcd=13bb3fe210d2e0e4

While the Hard Labor Creek Reservoir Management Board looks to step up efforts in purchasing the land needed for the project, officials are also considering the possibility of selling some of the land.

…………..A total of 1,053 of the 2,377 acres needed for the reservoir has been acquired to date. According to reservoir officials, 40 percent of the $ 27.2 million land acquisition budget has been used.

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Hard Labor Creek Website

http://hardlaborcreek.com/index.php

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Hard Labor Creek Reservoir Site Map

http://hardlaborcreek.com/images/stories/maps/HardLaborCreekRegionalReservoir.pdf

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Hard Labor Creek Status Report – April 2009

http://hardlaborcreek.com/images/stories/HLC_Update_Pres_April_09.pdf

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Water Dispute may speed up reservoir project   Walton Tribune 8-23-09

http://waltontribune.com/story.lasso?ewcd=7cc67521ba7d7c08


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