Maybe the new director of the state’s Environmental Protection Division can help Gainesville and Hall County officials move forward on the development of Cedar Creek Reservoir.
At least that’s what Gainesville City Manager Kip Padgett is hoping.
In a brief discussion about the future of Gainesville’s water resources Thursday, Gainesville Councilman Bob Hamrick expressed concern that the city was not moving fast enough on backup water plans if its ability to withdraw water from Lake Lanier is to be limited by this year’s federal ruling in the tri-state water wars.
"It seems to me like the question before us should be ‘what are we going to do if the judge’s ruling stands and we only have 8 million gallons of water?’" Hamrick said. "It seems No. 1 that we need to have some sort of a plan."
Hamrick said the council would need to establish priorities if the city is left with only 8 million gallons of water to withdraw from Lake Lanier each day.
Judge Paul Magnuson ruled in July that water withdrawal is not a congressionally authorized use of Lake Lanier. The ruling gives Georgia three years to stop using the reservoir for water consumption, negotiate another deal with Florida and Alabama or have Congress reauthorize the lake’s use.
The ruling threatens to cut Hall County’s withdrawals from Lake Lanier by more than half.
"If we only are limited to 8 million gallons, who’s going to get that water?" Hamrick said. "Obviously, I think our first responsibility is to the city of Gainesville. We may need now to be talking to Hall County and say this could be a reality in 2« years, and we’re going to have to establish priorities."
Hamrick also suggested a moratorium on development in the county that creates new water customers.
But Hamrick’s main concern seemed to be making sure the city could withdraw water from the other resources in the county, namely Cedar Creek reservoir in East Hall, which could provide approximately 7.3 million gallons of water each day if it had a water treatment plant.
Gainesville officials were ready to start building the water treatment plant at the reservoir in East Hall — they had even begun looking for engineers to design the project — but officials put those plans on hold at the request of the Hall County Board of Commissioners.
County Commission Chairman Tom Oliver wrote to the council in September asking city officials to delay construction of the water treatment plant until the county and the city could jointly develop and understand a plan for water and wastewater demands in North Hall for the next 20 years. At the time, Oliver proposed the idea of creating a separate North Hall Water Authority that connected the planned Glades Reservoir and Cedar Creek.
Though city officials were not keen on being involved in another water authority, they held off on the development of Cedar Creek to make sure both governments were "on the same page," according to a letter to Oliver from Mayor Myrtle Figueras.
The county holds the withdrawal permit for Cedar Creek reservoir, but the city is in charge of the treatment and distribution of water throughout the county.
"With Cedar Creek, we’re ready to move with Cedar Creek, but you know, we’ve got another issue holding us up on that that we’re trying to work through and not getting any headway right now," Padgett said.
But Padgett told the City Council at its work session Thursday that he and Public Utilities Director Kelly Randall have scheduled a meeting with F. Allen Barnes, the new director of Georgia EPD,
Mayor Pro Tem Ruth Bruner asked if Barnes may be able to help the city and the county come to a consensus on the issue.
"I hope so," Padgett said.