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Cedar Creek talks await Lanier report
Gainesville, Hall pause reservoir battle until corps releases lake information
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Officials from Gainesville and Hall County seemed to have come to some agreement in their tug-of-war over the unused Cedar Creek Reservoir.

That agreement, officials from both sides say, is to not talk about it until they know more about how much access the city will have to Lake Lanier.

"We agreed on something," said Danny Dunagan, Gainesville's mayor.

Before negotiating any further on who owns or will control the 141-acre reservoir in the Oconee basin, the two governments seem to be waiting on the outcome of a court-ordered report from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Lanier.

The report, ordered by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last summer, will outline how much water in Lake Lanier can be used for water supply.

Currently, Lanier is the primary source of drinking water for municipal water users in the county. It also supplies water to some 3 million people in
metro Atlanta.

County officials say the report is part of the information needed to negotiate on future use of Cedar Creek.

But the results of the report may be stalled by court filings Monday.

Lawyers representing Alabama and Florida on Monday asked the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down last year's ruling by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which found that metro Atlanta had the right to tap Lanier for drinking water.

The appeals court ruling was a major blow to Alabama and Florida, who say that Congress never intended that the federally funded reservoir would provide local drinking water.

They've accused metro Atlanta of using so much water upstream that it threatens the water supply for factories, endangered species and the mussel fisheries downstream.

"In terms of dollars and cents, the Eleventh Circuit's ruling has the potential to shift the need for billions of dollars of infrastructure expenditures from the Atlanta region to downstream communities, including those in Alabama and Florida," lawyers for Alabama said.

The two states' appeal could, at the very least, tie up resolution on the local issue of Cedar Creek indefinitely.

Designees from both Gainesville and Hall County's elected bodies met for about a half-hour Monday afternoon to discuss the ongoing dispute over Cedar Creek's ownership.

When they emerged, neither side said much about the outcome, though both sides said the meeting was productive.

They plan to issue a joint news release today outlining how they'll move forward.

Hall County built Cedar Creek Reservoir in 2000 with specially purposed sales tax revenues.

In 2006, the county deeded the reservoir over to the city as part of a 25-year lease-management agreement that allowed the city to gradually take ownership of the old Hall County water system and its debt.

But the two have been negotiating — or postponing negotiations — since 2010 over which government is entitled to the reservoir's water.

And for now, each seems content to wait until Lanier's fate is certain.

"It's hard to negotiate when you don't have all the information," said Hall Commissioner Scott Gibbs.

Gibbs and Tom Oliver, the chairman of Hall County's Board of Commissioners, have been designated to negotiate with the city over the reservoir's future.

Dunagan and Councilwoman Ruth Bruner have been negotiating from the city's side.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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