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9-5-12 Water, Reservoirs, Loans, Grants, Consultants and Covington Attorney Tommy Craig

While AVOC supports the idea of reservoirs for a long-term water supply, it does seem that much of the State Funding may wind up in the pockets of consultants. .



September 2, 2012


Water, Reservoirs, Loans, Grants, Consultants and Covington Attorney Tommy Craig


By Wendell Dawson, Editor, AVOC, Inc


Hard Labor Creek Reservoir Project officials have been expressing appreciation for receiving $ 32 Million in long-term state loans.   Some say this may get the Dam built.   What is not being discussed in detail is the source of the remainder of the money for an estimated total project cost of $ 352 Million.


Oconee Officials have admitted (Oconee Leader 8-30-12) that the population figures are not there for the financing or for the present need for a treatment plant.    The Dam alone will not provide any treated water for Oconee County for a long time to come.


There are skeptics and critics of the Governor’s Reservoir Projects fund.   While AVOC supports the idea of reservoirs for a long-term water supply, it does seem that much of the State Funding may wind up in the pockets of consultants while the projects linger for years.


See the following links for sources and more details on reservoirs, state-funding and Consultants.


See HLC Site Map of Platted Residential Lots in a Rural Area of Walton County


HLC Gets $ 32 M State Loans- Delay on Treatment.8.30.12.pdfx


The Oconee Leader –City Desk – 8.30.12

Commissioner Jim Luke who represents Oconee County on the Hard Labor Creek Management Board……………….

            …..As the Hard Labor Creek Reservoir project moves forward, Luke emphasized that it will be “a long time yet” before residents will drink water from it.

“We should start taking bids I spring of next year with construction to follow shortly after, hopefully no later than summer of next year.   All that would do is put water in a lake.We still have to build a treatment plant and a distribution center.There is not a plan as to when to build a treatment plant.The part that is slow is the part that’s already done and the part that is about to come (getting water in the pool).We still won’t have and drinking water.

            “It will take two or three more years to get the dam built and the pool filling. It takes 18 months for the lake to fill. After that, if there is a sudden need or if a new industry is using a lot of water, we could start a treatment plant, which is a one-year process.   Theoretically, we can have drinking water in three and a half years, but I doubt it because there is not a demand’…….



….. Nearly all of the money awarded in the initial round came in the form of loans to local governments and agencies, which will eventually have to repay the money.

    Oconee and Walton counties will get two 40-year loans -- one for $ 20 million and another for $ 12 million -- for the new Hard Labor Creek reservoir……...


Water Supply Program of Governor is waste of taxpayers money 8.21.12.pdfx

……………. Hard Labor Creek Reservoir, a reservoir project that just received two loans from the GWSP, also provides a cautionary tale. Walton and Oconee Counties moved forward with this proposed reservoir banking on a high level of population growth with new water customers to pay for the debt.

The new customers have not materialized at the rate envisioned while costs have ballooned more than 8 times from an estimated $ 41 million to $ 350 million. The two other new reservoir projects funded by the GWSP have similar problems with overblown population projections and underestimated costs…………


Reservoirs getting Deal money Tommy Craig Consultant.8.23.12.pdfx

……….Long-term, if ever: Three new reservoir projects – in Newton County (Bear Creek), Oconee and Walton Counties (Hard Labor Creek), and Paulding County (Richland Creek) dominate the field. The first and second of the proposed reservoirs are outside of the Metro North Georgia Water Planning District and the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River basin – and thus not geographically located in the region where the water is most needed.

……..The third proposed reservoir is located in the Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa River basin. And this project, according to one online commentary, has allegedly been a pet of Georgia State Senate hopeful Bill Carruth, also a former Board of Natural Resources member.

       All three reservoirs have been shepherded through the state and federal permitting process at one time or another by one consultant – Newton County’s county attorney and a member of the Metro North Georgia Water District board – Tommy Craig. All of the projects have been justified on population projections and growth bubbles recently popped by the Great Recession.

        At least Oconee County’s Chief Financial Officer acknowledges this fact – but remains happy to take the loot and put existing water utility rate payers on the hook. Total tax dollars headed to these “money pits”: $ 82,100,000 in GEFA loans………….


Tommy Craig-Consultants Power Raises Questions AJC 6.4.11.pdfx

…. William Thomas “Tommy” Craig has assembled a cadre of experts-for-hire to lock up most of the consulting business and collects millions of dollars from county commissions and city councils by hacking through the thicket of federal and state regulations that stand between them and the prize — a reservoir that may be the most expensive investment these governments have ever made.


Craig’s services often come as part of a package with those of Joe Tanner & Associates, a firm that brings political heft and an insider’s knowledge of the regulatory system to projects. Tanner is a former commissioner of the state Department of Natural Resources whose team includes Harold Reheis, former head of the state Environmental Protection Division.

   The firm contributed $ 350,000 to dozens of political campaigns since 2003, most of them for state and legislative races, according to records reviewed by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. For example, Tanner’s firm contributed $ 12,825 to the campaign of Gov. Nathan Deal last year; the governor-elect named Tanner to his transition team.

   Tanner said he and his associates mostly contribute their knowledge and expertise from decades of government service, an approach that has made them very much in demand.

    “There is nothing wrong with carving out a niche for ourselves in business,” Reheis said in a phone interview with the AJC last week. “That’s part of the American system. It doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with the system.”

………….To expand the project, Hall County paid $ 4 million to buy out the family that owned the reservoir land, much of which reimbursed the family for what it already had paid Craig and his team. Since then, another $ 1.8 million has gone to the consultants, and the project is years away from a drinkable drop of water.

   In January, Bell invited representatives from a law firm that competes with Craig for reservoir business to speak to the commission.

    “I understand that Tommy Craig has had a lock on reservoirs in this state,” Bell said. “I wasn’t comfortable with the fact of dealing with someone who considered himself the only option. It decreased our leverage with him.”

    After the presentation by the competing firm, Craig warned the commission that firing him would be a “terrible mistake.” It would not only cost the county his services but those of Tanner, Reheis and the other firms as well. He did agree to a 10 percent cut to his $ 25,000-per-month fee.

     But Bell said the episode underscores a problem facing local governments going forward.

    “When you have a small group of people who are the only ones to go to in this area, it puts small governments at a disadvantage,” he said. “He says, ‘If I go, they go. If you fire me, nobody is staying.’ It puts us at a disadvantage.”



     With a $ 64,000 check, Hall County is ending a longstanding relationship with Glades Reservoir consultant Tommy Craig.

     The Hall County Board of Commissioners voted 3-2 at Monday's work session on a change order agreement ending Craig's work on the project.

     Commissioners Craig Lutz and Ashley Bell voted against paying Craig $ 64,515.46 for expenses, services from the attorney and part of a monthly retainer.

     "While I'm ready to be done with Mr. Craig's services, I don't think we need to pay him this," Lutz said at the meeting. "I haven't seen the work that's been done."

    Craig, an attorney who has performed consulting services to numerous Georgia organizations looking to build reservoirs, was retained by the county to help it get permits to build Glades. The county has paid him $ 1,005,875 in permitting consulting fees since he began that work.


Tommy Craig & South Fulton reservoir hits snag with federal regulators 5.11.12.pdfx

The cities of Fairburn, Union City and Palmetto are funding the $ 100 million project with bond money and have already borrowed at least $ 42 million to build the 440-acre lake.
    In a letter last month to authority chairman Brian Jones,
Corps officials disputed Craig’s claims that the Pink Creek site was “environmentally preferable.” They also challenged Craig's assertion that there are not enough mitigation credits near Bear Creek to offset the damage caused by building the reservoir.
Dickerson said the Corps’ inspection was “rudimentary” and Craig has sent out a team to do a more thorough review.
Craig and the water authority have defended using the Pink Creek site, in part, because of the money already invested in the plan. But Corps spokeswoman Tracy Robillard said that money was spent “at the sole discretion of the authority and in reliance on representations made by private consultants.”
Dickerson said Craig relied in advice given by the Corps in selecting the site.
Sally Bethea, executive director of the Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, said the Corps’ objections were “right on target.”
    “Pink Creek is yet another example of consultant's failure to follow the law
and provide adequate compensation for significant harm to waterways and downstream communities,” she said………..


Jasper Wont Support Bear Creek Reservoir without referendum 8.14.12.pdfx

   NEWTON CITIZEN 8.14.12 - Covington - The Jasper County Board of Commissioners has unanimously agreed that it will not enter into an agreement with any county or authority regarding Bear Creek Reservoir without holding a referendum and getting voter approval.

    Jasper County District 4 Commissioner Mary Patrick made the motion at a recent BOC meeting after the news that Newton County has received a $ 21 million loan to construct the reservoir through the Governor's Water Supply Program.

   "I'm concerned that Jasper County will again be roped into this," Patrick said. The discussion has been posted on YouTube and Patrick has sent an email to constituents regarding the issue.

    In an interview Tuesday, Patrick said that in 2003, the Jasper County Board of Commissioners was ready to sign a deal with Newton County that would have committed Jasper to funding 25 percent of the reservoir costs. Patrick said that Jasper citizens were not informed of those discussions, and due to public outcry and an attempt to get an injunction to stop the agreement, a judge ordered a public meeting, a citizens' committee was appointed and new representatives were elected to the BOC that opposed Bear Creek.

    "In 2003 the Board of Commissioners had several illegal meetings and almost voted to get us tied in to Bear Creek Reservoir, which if we had done that, the reservoir stil l doesn't exist today, we would have been millions of dollars out of pocket for Jasper County with nothing to show for it ... I'm very concerned this might again occur," Patrick said.

   The makeup of the Jasper board will change the first of next year, as Patrick is not running for re-election, one current member lost a bid for re-election and others face competition in November.

     Patrick said she wanted to bring the issue up now so that, "In order to make a future agreement, the BOC would have to either hold a referendum or overturn this vote that was passed 5-0."

      Patrick said she doubts the cost estimate of $2.7 million to construct Bear Creek Reservoir. "I feel certain it will cost four times that figure, as have many of the reservoirs that (Newton County Attorney) Tommy Craig has been involved in," she said in her letter to constituents. "This $2 million must not cover all the land that has already been acquired, or the pipeline of 16+ miles running from BCR to Cornish Creek Reservoir to treat the water, nor the pipe from


Water - GA expert points to Army and yuck-factor- AccessNorthGA- 8.23.12.pdfx

…………..But the Corp of Army Engineers, Word emphasized, is now only authorized, not obligated, to consider drinking water needs as a factor in determining water releases at the Buford Dam.
     "The operative word there being 'what your authority is', not 'what your obligation is'," Word explained.
   As the Corp readies their Environmental Impact Study, expected by the end of 2012, Word said other means of securing drinking water need to be considered.
    Word’s two primary recommendations were: underground aquifers or massive storage containers in rural farming areas,
and the reuse of treated waste water in more populated areas.
Right now the City of Gainesville puts their treated waste water back into Lake Lanier, so does Gwinnett County. We all drink it. It’s good," Word said. "We’re doing indirect reuse of treated waste water right now, but we have to do more."
   "I think the
time will come, twenty or thirty years from now, when we’ll see sewage treatment plants with a pipe going directly to our drinking water plants and that will change the equation all together."
    As almost everyone in the room squirmed in their seats reacting to that suggestion, Word said with a smile, "Yeah, it’s neat, the 'yuck' factor."…..

BECKER.8.19.12.Hard Labor Creek Board and Loans.pdfx

     The counties promised to give metro-Atlanta access to the water as part of the application for the loans.

   In fact, the 1,758-page document filed by Oconee County and the 332-page separate document filed by Walton County in support of the application said the reservoir “would play a critical role in providing future water supply to both the metro Atlanta and Northeast Georgia regions.”

    …………In making the case for state funding, both counties promised to continue raising water and sewer rates as part of their contributions to the reservoir construction.

    They also projected large population growth in the two counties, exceeding the level of growth projected by the U.S. Census Bureau.



6-30-12 Oconee-Walton HLC Reservoir Project Has Many and Expensive Challenges Ahead



The HLC Dam may get built but it will be a long time before we see a treatment plant and water pumped 18 miles from High Shoals and then Treated Water pumped 18 miles back to Oconee County.   Just think about that scenario and the cost!!!