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Gainesville council wants to double Cedar Creek reservoir's capacity
New water plant could be built by 2013
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Jesse Amerson fishes in the Cedar Creek Reservoir in East Hall County. The city of Gainesville plans to speed up plans for a new water treatment plant at the reservoir. - photo by Tom Reed

The city of Gainesville plans to speed up plans for a new water treatment plant in light of the recent federal court ruling that limits how much drinking water can be pulled from Lake Lanier.

Mayor Myrtle Figueras said the plant would be built at the Cedar Creek reservoir and could treat up to 12 million gallons of water per day, up from the previously planned 6 million gallons.

The plant would cost about $25 million, up from the original cost of $15.4 million, said Mak Yari, the city’s engineering and planning section chief.

The reservoir, a 141-acre lake at full pool, was built more than a decade ago off Timber Ridge Road in East Hall.

"By moving forward, we can begin using water from the reservoir within three years in the unfortunate event that a settlement is not reached and Judge Magnuson’s order goes into full effect," Figueras said at City Council’s work session Thursday morning.

As part of plans discussed with the council in March, "we had identified a ... plant that would be online by 2013," Yari said.

Figueras said the city also plans to "continue our partnership with the other water providers to appeal the judge’s decision."

"We will maintain our presence in the decision-making process as we continue our alliance to make sure our voice is heard and our needs are represented," she said.

A July 17 ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Paul Magnuson gives Georgia three years to make a deal with Alabama and Florida over the use of Lake Lanier.

The decision does not rule out Gainesville’s use of Lanier as a water source. It would, however, significantly limit now much water the city could take from the reservoir.

Magnuson’s ruling means Gainesville would have to return to its original withdrawal permit of 8 million gallons per day. That number is a throwback to the average water consumption the utility had in 1975, when it served fewer than one-third of the customers it has today, officials have said.

By contrast, Gainesville’s 46,648 water customers used an average of 18.48 million gallons of the resource per day last month, according to reports compiled by the utility.

Local officials also are hoping to get federal approval to build Glades Reservoir in North Hall County.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is responsible for permitting the proposed 850-acre reservoir. Local officials hope that within seven years the reservoir could provide about 6.4 million gallons of water to Hall County residents each day.

The Cedar Creek reservoir "will be designed so it can be easily expanded to accept water from other sources, such as unnamed future reservoirs or the Glades Farm Reservoir, if the county so desires," Figueras said.

The mayor asked the council to approve a resolution at its meeting Tuesday to begin designing the new plant.

Council members expressed their ardent support.

"Time is of the essence on this one," Councilman Danny Dunagan said. "... Little did we know in our February retreat, when we talked about Cedar Creek, that we would be moving this fast."

Councilman George Wangemann added, "The future belongs to those who plan for it and this is futuristic thinking. I hope we move forward and look for other sites as well."

As far as paying for the project, the city has started talking with Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority officials about "what financing instruments and avenues may be available," Yari said.

"They are going to ... internally have a conversation with all of their staff and find out how best they might be able to help us," he said.

Councilman Bob Hamrick said, "And it may be possible to get (federal) stimulus funds, too, so investigate every avenue you can."

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