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12-8-10 Oconee Water Plans and Financial Challenges of Hard Labor Creek Project – Part 3

If there is minimal growth and limited water revenue, ultimately, the debt can come back on taxpayers. Some critics of the Hard Labor Creek project have always argued the population and revenue projections used to sell the project were greatly inflated. Now that the “Housing Bubble” has burst, the revenue is not coming in....... AVOC Three Part Series . Part 1: HLC Background Information – Financial Commitments Part 2: Challenges for Hard Labor Creek and Hall County’s Glade Project; Part 3: HLC Project is basically stalled with limited information on how and when it will proceed – with slowed growth and development. .



December 8, 2010


HLC Project is basically stalled - how and when it will proceed with slowed growth and development. – Part 3


Wendell Dawson, Editor, AVOC, Inc


Hard Labor Creek at Browning Shoals Rd –Top. Approx Location Dam site 9-9-09


Subdivision growth is way down in Walton and Oconee Counties and is not expected to boom anytime soon.Yet, bond payments must be made.   Oconee County has already raised water rates to deal with some of the problems.   4-23-10 Water and Growth projections and decisions have consequences for Oconee County


If there is minimal growth and limited water revenue, ultimately, the debt can come back on taxpayers.   Some critics of the Hard Labor Creek project have always argued the population and revenue projections used to sell the project were greatly inflated.    Now that the “Housing Bubble” has burst, the revenue is not coming in.    The HLC supporters have held out hope of various solutions:State Aid which has not materialized; Selling water to Metro Atlanta but it is not large enough to support the cost; State taking it over but the project is not big enough for that.   Many feel that Lake Lanier will be a continuing water source for Atlanta and that larger reservoirs (Glade in Hall) may be more viable as an alternative.    e Financial Side of Water (and of the lack thereof)


                   See Retired IRS Official Charles Baugh Analysis of HLC Tax Liability for Oconee

                    Hard Labor Creek Debt Service for Oconee CBaugh.5.08.pdfx


It is ironic that another “Tommy Craig” project (Glade in Hall County) could be used as a Lake Lanier alternative or supplement to the exclusion of Hard Labor Creek, another “Tommy Craig” project.    The consultants have been paid and now the debt is left for others.


At some point, it may be more economical to stop working on HLC and stop the “financial bleeding” before it gets unmanageable.   After all, the land can be sold and unused bond money can be repaid.  In other words, ‘Stop Digging”!

Georgia Water Wire -10.22.10


Glades Project and Hard Labor Creek Experience

….Hall County’s Tom Oliver, according to a Gainesville Times report, has urged residents

not to worry about the project’s costs or future water rates. At a minimum, current Hall

County and City of Gainesville customers would see an increase of “about $ 5 a month”

to begin paying off Glades. You can find that number in the Business Plan as well as a

map and a slideshow presentation on the Hall County website.

            The Gamble: If Hall County residents want to recoup Glades’ project costs, a few other

things must happen. First, Georgia (and Gainesville) would have to lose their appeal of

the Magnuson decision. Second, Congress would not reauthorize Lake Lanier for

municipal water supply – thus requiring that nearly all current Lake Lanier users find

alternative water supplies. (Plenty of politicos and lawyers insist the Magnuson decision

will never result in a full shut-down of Lake Lanier for water supply – so why the current

hard-sell on Glades?) Third, Georgia would have to iron out water-allocation

negotiations with Florida and Alabama to end the tri-state water war because Alabama

has said it will oppose any new ACF reservoirs until the water wars are resolved. Most

important and finally, the economy would need to rebound and make the ‘burbs bloom

again to generate new customers. Combined, perhaps, these four factors would

produce enough customers who could actually pay off Glades’ water utility revenue


            A word of caution: Those following Glades Reservoir should also take note of the financial troubles associated with the proposed Hard Labor Creek Regional Reservoir project. Hard Labor may one day fill with water to serve Oconee and Walton Counties. Oconee and Walton County issued bonds to pay for the initial land acquisition and planning with the goal of using new water customers to pay the bills. But the economy has tanked; there are no new residents, no new meters (“tap fees”), and no new water customers. Still the banker cometh.

The solution, according to this Athens Banner Herald story: In 2009, the Oconee County Utilities Department raised water rates 15% – the first rate increase in 10 years – for all residential customers. Then in early 2010, the Department requested another 15% rate increase. The Walton County Tribune has reported more of the same: residential customers there saw a 20% increase in their water

bills. Lee Becker gives us a fantastic run-down on the Hard Labor financial boondoggle

here. As of July 2010, all reservoir construction was on hold. Land acquisition and

environmental mitigation projects will continue, but the project is essentially frozen in

“shovel-ready” mode. It is also worth noting that the near simultaneous body-blows of

drought (2007-09) and the Magnuson decision led to speculation that Gwinnett County or

other metro-Atlanta communities would breathe new financial life into Hard Labor.

            Those sugar daddies do not appear to have materialized. Ratepayers in Hall County and

the City of Gainesville had better hope that Forsyth’s expressed interest in Glades will

turn into a “financial commitment” before the Glades project moves forward.

    In the weeds: Glades consultants have revealed some information about the proposed

Dawson Forest reservoir. “In order for” the Dawson project “to fly,” according to Harold

Reheis, “a lot of things…have to happen.”…….

1-28-10 Hard Labor Creek Land Costs under budget – No State Help


The Walton Tribune January 27, 2010



Reservoir land costs coming in under budget

By Robbie Schwartz


With the construction season quickly approaching, January’s meeting of the Hard Labor Creek Management Board focused on getting final pieces in place to start moving dirt on various projects associated with the more than $ 350 million project.
The meeting started by highlighting the fact 48 percent of the total land required for the project has been acquired using only 31 percent of the budget set aside for land acquisition. An additional 11 percent of land needed is under negotiation.
Much of the meeting was spent considering final bridge recommendations for the relocation of Social Circle-Fairplay Road…………………….


The board talked about the recommendations and findings of Gov. Sonny Perdue’s Water Contingency Planning Task Force. The report dashed most of the hopes of receiving state monies to aid in the project as the task force determined Lake Lanier was still the best option, followed by stricter conservation measures, re-use of potable water and expanding current reservoirs. No mention was made of new reservoirs like Hard Labor Creek Reservoir.