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3-15-11 Oconee & Athens media can’t connect the dots on water issues

… (Bear Creek) reservoir capacity may be half what was originally thought. It will result in Oconee and Clarke having only half the capacity that they expected. Both have used more than that. They may owe Jackson County for water and will be limited in future use of water from the Bear Creek Reservoir.



March 13, 2011


Oconee & Athens media can’t connect the dots on water issues


By Wendell Dawson, Editor, AVOC, Inc


Two major developments in recent days can have significant impact on the Water Supply for Oconee and Athens-Clarke County.   The Federal Appeals Court is likely to overturn the Florida Judge’s ruling that would cut off Lake Lanier as a water source for Atlanta.    This will add more pressure to the financially strapped state to hold off on massive reservoir development.


The suit by Jackson County for reallocation of water shares was allowed to go forward by the Georgia Supreme Court.   This could mean that the reservoir capacity is half what was originally thought.   It will result in Oconee and Clarke having only half the capacity that they expected.   Both have used more than that.   They may owe Jackson County for water and will be limited in future use of water from the Bear Creek Reservoir.


It seems that Jackson County and its attorney, Mike Bowers, feel that they can provide the evidence to require the reallocation.   The Jackson Herald has reported the news but the Oconee papers have ignored it.   The Athens Banner-Herald ran a pathetic article about it on March 11, 2011.   Not only was the article inaccurate but was completely misleading.    It had a lot of quotes from Authority Chairman Melvin Davis that really said nothing – TOTAL BS!


A true leader would have been concerned about the report of incorrect capacity and would have worked with the Authority to find the truth and look for solutions.   I held Mr. Davis’s position as Chairman of the Oconee County Board of Commissioners from 1989 to 2001.   I was a member of and Chairman of the Upper Oconee Basin Water Authority during the nineties when the Bear Creek Reservoir was built.  Leaders at the time were proud of our joint efforts to provide a water supply for our area.    I know how it works!   Being a leader is much more than holding a title and photo ops and being quoted in the paper.


Instead of working on a solution and looking for more water capacity for the four counties, the “Leader” went over to Walton County and got Oconee involved in the ill-advised Hard Labor Creek Project.    The HLC project is stalled and seen as a mistake by many but not reported that way by our local media.   Citizens deserve more facts and better reports than they have gotten.   A Google search would reveal more information than has been reported locally.   Mike Buffington of the Jackson Herald takes issue with Athens-Clarke County, and it probably bears some culpability, but the problem is lack of leadership with the Authority which includes Athens-Clarke County.


Hard Labor Creek was a Developer driven project and a big financial mistake for Oconee County.   Some of the consultants involved with Bear Creek were also involved with Hard Labor Creek.    Their projections for both projects have become suspect.   Oconee should have worked on expanding capacity at Bear Creek, with an existing Treatment Plant, Intergovernmental Agreement, pumping and transmission lines.    This mistake will be more and more apparent as the project stalls for lack of funding.


Water customers on the Oconee County Lines should brace for higher water rates.   Oconee County needs to get serious about both Bear Creek and Hard Labor Creek.   Puff pieces won’t cut it as the facts become more and more known.   “You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time but you can’t fool all the people all the time!”


3-10-11 Important Developments in Water Reservoir Issues for Oconee & NEGA -Federal & State Courts   http://www.avoc.info/info/article.php?article=4154

Just as I thought, Athens spins water story… Mike Buffington Blog Online 3.11.11


   Just as I thought would happen, the Athens newspaper bent waaay over to spin the story that Jackson County and won its legal fight against Athens-Clarke and the Upper Oconee Basin Water Authority.

   The story’s headline was “Water battle may be close to resolution,” which was a way to say something without actually saying A-C got beat by little-ole-Jackson County.

   And the story never really said A-C lost: The phrase used was, “The state Supreme Court settled the question this week, when justices upheld a lower court ruling and refused to hear another round of arguments over whether Jackson County can sue.”

   In other words, A-C lost.

Come’on, guys, A-C was wrong in this situation in refusing to have a recalculation of Bear Creek Reservoir’s actual water yield. Can’t ya’ll just do a little honest, no-spin reporting and say they got beat, or does A-C always have to be right?


(Bear Creek) Water battle may be close to resolution –ABH – 3.11.11   (Very misleading)


   JEFFERSON - Members of the Upper Oconee Basin Water Authority may be close to resolving a three-year legal battle over whether the authority, which manages Bear Creek Reservoir, should recalculate the amount of water that the reservoir can provide

     Jackson County, one of the four government bodies that make up the authority, sued in 2008 to force the basin group to recalculate the amount of water that the reservoir holds, but the case bogged down in appeals over whether Jackson County had the right to sue the authority.

   The state Supreme Court settled the question this week, when justices upheld a lower court ruling and refused to hear another round of arguments over whether Jackson County can sue. The case now goes onto Jackson County Superior Court Judge Joe Booth's trial calendar or will be settled out of court.

   Officials in the basin group's other three counties expect negotiations or a trial, but attorney Mike Bowers, who represents Jackson County, sees the ruling as a victory.

   "I know how these things work, and I expect they're going to say, 'It ain't over, and there's lot more,' "   Bowers said about the officials in the other Bear Creek counties. "But that's just not so. It's largely over, but it's not technically over. There's just a few things left to do."

    At the height of a historic drought, Jackson County asked the authority to recalculate the amount of water the reservoir could provide and how much each county should be able to use. The county argued that earlier estimates were unrealistically high.

    The rest of the authority members, Barrow, Oconee and Athens-Clarke counties, disagreed, and Jackson County sued to have the analysis performed.

  Authority Chairman Melvin Davis, who also serves as chairman of the Oconee County Commission, doesn't believe the Supreme Court's ruling is a complete victory for Jackson County.

    "I think that the authority feels that its position is still a very strong position," Davis said. "The alternative of going through the (appeals) process was to get the decision we wanted without having to go through the trial process. Now the remaining alternative is to go through the trial process."

   However, authority members are open to discussing a resolution to end the lawsuit.

"Obviously, I do think that all of our counties that are in partnership with the Upper Oconee Basin Water Authority need to look at each other's concerns and attempt to resolve those concerns as we go through the process," Davis said. "There might be an opportunity for review and for discussions with the various parties, but that remains to be seen."

            COMMENT:    zyzygy   Fri., Mar 11 @ 12:33:35 pm

     This is one of those news stories that recites some facts but gives no useful information.

     Why are the other counties disagreeing over increasing the estimated capacity of Bear Creek?

     Is it because downstream counties (e.g., Clarke and Oconee) also draw water directly from the Oconee River and don't want increased drawing rights at Bear Creek to diminish their future downstream drawing rights?

      If so, I can't tell from this story.

     This is one of many stories where some explanation of the "why" would make the story meaningful. Otherwise, it is about as useful as reciting Neptune's orbital speed.           


Metro Atlanta should conserve before building more reservoirs – FL Times-Union -3.11.11


     A Riverkeeper report rebuts engineered solutions.    By Walter C. Jones

     ATLANTA - Metro Atlanta can do more to conserve water before looking to new interbasin transfers or reservoirs, according to a report released Tuesday by an environmental group.

    The study bolsters efforts by legislators to pass tougher restrictions on the transfer of water from one river basin to another. Downstream communities like Athens, Rome and Augusta favor the tighter restrictions as a way to ensure Atlanta doesn't soak up the economic resources tied to water.

   The report, "Filling the Water Gap," estimates metro Atlanta communities could conserve to save 165 million gallons of water a day at a fraction of the cost to build one reservoir.

    Some business groups disagree with the recommendations, though.

    The report by the Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper and funded by the bank RBC, Turner Foundation……………


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.
      And that could have implications for how much access to water Barrow County will have in the Bear Creek Reservoir.
    The Georgia Supreme Court refused Monday to overturn a lower court ruling that had said Jackson County’s suit against UOBWA could proceed………..


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.

Hard Labor Creek Project –Oconee Lessons ABH- 3.6.11

The Athens Banner-Herald - March 6, 2011-LETTERS


Take lesson from Hard Labor reservoir

       After reading the Banner-Herald's Monday story on the proposed Hard Labor Creek Reservoir ("Reservoir still waits for permit," Feb. 28), one wonders if the matter of engineering errors would be causing such heartburn among the lake's backers if the project weren't already in such a terrible financial state.

   As it is, any added cost to produce engineering that's acceptable to state regulators will be only one small part of a financing scheme totaling $ 350 million that has proven deeply erroneous since the beginning……