Advanced Search

3-10-11 Important Developments in Water Reservoir Issues for Oconee & NEGA -Federal & State Courts

The Federal Appeals Court may well reverse the Florida judge on the Lake Lanier issue. The State Supreme Court has ruled that Jackson County’s suit may proceed against the Upper Oconee Basin Water Authority over allocations of the water in Bear Creek Reservoir. The best solution for all the four counties in Bear Creek Reservoir is to step back, get new leadership and new consultants and work together for a joint solution.



March 9, 2011


Important Developments in Water and Reservoir Issues for Oconee & North GA


By Wendell Dawson, Editor, AVOC, Inc


Water issues outside Oconee County are impacted by recent developments that have a bearing on Bear Creek Reservoir (Jackson County) and the Hard Labor Creek Project (Walton County).   The Federal Appeals Court may well reverse the Florida judge on the Lake Lanier issue.    The State Supreme Court has ruled that Jackson County’s suit may proceed against the Upper Oconee Basin Water Authority over allocations of the water in Bear Creek Reservoir.   Jackson contends that its studies indicate the capacity is only half what was projected when the reservoir was permitted.  


Water Guru Tommy Craig of Covington was the Consultant for the Section 404 Permit applications for both Bear Creek and Hard Labor Creek. (Section 404 of the Clean Water Act)  Craig is presently working on a Hall County project (Glades Reservoir Project)  and his expensive fees have recently been a subject of public discussion there.   This report and comments are very revealing about costs of such projects.   http://www.gainesvilletimes.com/section/6/article/46589/


Hard Labor Creek Reservoir Project (HLC) is struggling financially and feeling the slowdown of the economy.   It has become apparent that overblown population and revenue projections were used to involve Oconee in the project.   Taxpayers are more exposed than Oconee Officials claimed when the 3-2 vote authorized Oconee County’s involvement.   A review of the land maps and plats for the project show hundreds of platted lots surrounding the HLC site.   Many think that a local housing development really was the driving force.


Hard Labor Creek Reservoir Site Map



6-4-07 Oconee to sign 50 year contract with Walton on $ 353 million reservoir project


3-7-07 Oconee to join Walton Reservoir on split Vote – 3 to 2



The HLC Project management has sought relief from the State.However, the State does not have much money these days.    The management team has also been promoting the idea of water being sold to the Metro Atlanta Area in view of the threatened loss of Lake Lanier for a water source.   Hard Labor Creek not only faces financial challenges but must deal with design issues and inter-basin transfer issues.


If Jackson County proves its claims on the real capacity of Bear Creek Reservoir, it should rock the Basin Authority and show failure of leadership.   (Melvin Davis has chaired the UOBWA for several years).   The dispute should never have wound up in court.    Barrow and Jackson Counties have been searching for more water sources and have run into the financial and time challenges that are plaguing Hard Labor Creek.


The Barrow County News reported this week that Barrow’s proposed new reservoir site will take 20 years and cost up $ 90 Million to $ 100 Million!The best solution for all the four counties in Bear Creek Reservoir is to step back, get new leadership and new consultants and work together for a joint solution.   They have the existing treatment plant and supply lines in place.It would cost much less than the estimated $ 350 Million for Hard Labor Creek.Many feel that the total cost of HLC is grossly understated.   It may be cheaper in the long run for Oconee County to pull out of HLC and cut its losses.



Water Links and Issues for Oconee and Area 3-9-11.pdfx

Judges appear disinclined to let water ruling stand –AJC – 3.9.11


   A panel of judges on Wednesday appeared disinclined to let stand a ruling in the tri-state water dispute that, should it come to pass, could have catastrophic consequences for the metro region.

    The judges for the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals indicated they wanted to send the case back and order the Army Corps of Engineers, which operates Buford Dam, to make a final determination of how much water from Lake Lanier can be used to meet metro Atlanta's needs.


Jackson wins litigation with UOBWA; Could have implications for Barrow –Barrow Journal 3.9.11




Mike Buffington , March 9. 2011 Barrow Journal & Jackson Herald


In a move that could spell the end of litigation, Jackson County was handed a major legal victory this week in its lawsuit against the Upper Oconee Basin Water Authority.

Building reservoir could take 20 years –Barrow County News - 3.2.11


    Building a reservoir in northern Barrow County could cost between $ 90 million and $ 100 million and take about 20 years, county water officials said.


Interbasin Transfers – Carl Vinson Institute Paper 2-11



     Interbasin transfer (IBT) regulation has remained a hot topic of debate among

environmentalists and policymakers as proposals to expand Georgia’s IBT

pipeline continue to flow in. These proposals are one solution to meet Georgia’s

water supply needs, particularly in Metro Atlanta. However, there is concern

about the potential effects the transfers will have on the donor basin and

surrounding communities.


2-18-11 Reservoir Issues – GA Wire- Hard Labor Creek Project described as Failed


Reservoir Reality Check - February 18, 2011 - By garivernetwork



Be sure to give that story a read. In other news, the Athens Banner-Herald has an update on the foundering Hard Labor Creek Reservoir project, whose backers are looking to Atlanta for what could easily be called a bailout for a failed endeavor. As we’ve noted before, the story of the Hard Labor Creek project stands as a cautionary tale with broad applicability when it comes the financial side of lake-building.


In a nutshell, Hard Labor Creek is on the rocks because the new water customers who were supposed to pay off its debt have not materialized. (The shame of it all is that existing customers are paying that bill.) Demand projections were overblown. And if the project is in trouble because its presumed water demand does not exist, then should it even be built?………..

Then again, this project’s proponents seem to be grasping at straws. For example, does anyone really think that Gov. Deal’s reservoir money will magically turn from bonds into grants?

Nickels & Dimes… and Dams – Hard Labor Creek Discussed –GA Water Wire – 3.4.11


By Georgia River Network

     Two recent news stories just happen to highlight the cost side of a couple of proposed reservoir projects. Neither paints a complete picture of how local governments handle the immense costs of developing reservoirs, but both of these stories fall easily into the category of “things that make you go ‘Hmm.’”

     The Gainesville Times reported last Saturday that “the Hall County Board of Commissioners is hoping to cut costs on the Glades Reservoir project by finding a better price for engineering services.” This in a split vote after Glades consultant Tommy Craig “told commissioners he and his colleagues were willing to lower their fees by $ 5,000 a month.”…………..

     The Athens Banner-Herald reported Monday on a tangential piece of the Hard Labor Creek project saga. This week’s story was simply about a tussle between reservoir planners and state regulators over some of the engineering – a tussle that has some dollar value tied to it. It’s worth asking, of course, if that amount of money would be such an issue if the project weren’t already in such bad shape financially.         That’s the real story of Hard Labor Creek, after all: the project is frozen but not built, is already costing local ratepayers, and almost surely wasn’t even needed in the first place. Thus it appears that local officials may be trying to do damage control on the magnitude of the costs that they’ve put their constituents on the line for.

HLC Reservoir management board looks to Deal for project funding - Walton Tribune -2.20.11


     To ask state for $ 32M for water plan

By Brian Arrington WaltonTribune.com

   The Hard Labor Creek Management Board will look to use a portion of Gov. Nathan Deal’s $ 300 million reservoir project cache to move the HLC Reservoir project forward.

   Precision Planning Vice President Jimmy Parker, the project’s engineer, said the announcement of Deal’s plan to secure water for the state could benefit the HLC Reservoir project and recommended the board pursue funding.

“The local leadership in Walton and Oconee (counties) are preparing a formal request to the state, to solicit grant funding in the amount of $ 32 million over three years to facilitate the completion of the reservoir,” Parker said in an e-mail. “Both Walton and Oconee remain firm in their position that the award or acceptance of any such grant funding must be closely evaluated to ensure that the two counties retain full control and ownership of the Hard Labor Creek Project.”