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Gainesville to vote on water treatment plant
Council will consider request for $1.55 million to design treatment plant
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A new water treatment plant may soon be on the drawing board for Gainesville.

Gainesville City Council will vote Tuesday on a recommendation to allow Jordan, Jones and Goulding-Jacobs Engineering design a water treatment plant at Cedar Creek Reservoir.

The reservoir, located in East Hall, is the county’s only immediate back-up supply of water in case a July 2009 ruling limits access to Lake Lanier in 2012.

Yet Cedar Creek lacks the facilities necessary to withdraw, treat and distribute the reservoir’s water to customers of Gainesville’s Public Utilities Department.

On Thursday, officials with the department asked the council to move forward with the plant’s design, setting a timeline that would have it complete just in time for a deadline set by U.S. District Court Judge Paul Magnuson.

In July 2009, Magnuson ruled that Lake Lanier was never congressionally authorized to be a source of drinking water.

He gave Georgia until July 2012 to either negotiate an agreement over the management of Lanier, have Congress reauthorize the reservoir or revert back to withdrawals that equal those in the mid 1970s.

Though Georgia has appealed the ruling, the latter consequence would reduce Hall County’s reliance on Lanier by more than half, leaving local water officials responsible for making up the difference.

On Thursday, Mak Yari, the utilities department’s engineering manager, told the council Cedar Creek could likely be of use by Magnuson’s deadline.

“In a very general sense we do know a starting point, which is July of 2010,” said Yari. “We know, in essence, when we need to be done: July of 2012. That really gives us 24 months to complete this project, as is.”

He said the timeline of its construction would depend on various issues, including if and when the state’s Environmental Protection Division grants the city a permit to withdraw water from the reservoir.

Hall County officials, who built the reservoir using county sales tax dollars, still hold a state permit to withdraw 2 million gallons of the reservoir’s water each day.

The permit was left out of a 2006 contract deeding the reservoir and all that once belonged to the county water system to the city.

Since 2009 — as the city tried to move forward on the treatment plant at Cedar Creek and county officials tried to make sure Cedar Creek could be used in conjunction with a future reservoir planned in the north end of the county, Glades — the city and the county have struggled over who should control the reservoir and its permit.

Now, however, officials with both entities say they are trying to work together. Gainesville is also seeking a permit to withdraw the other 9.5 million gallons of water the reservoir is capable of producing a day.

The approval of that permit will affect the timeline of design and construction of the treatment plant, Yari told the council Thursday.

County officials are supportive of the city’s progress on the treatment plant, said Hall County Public Works Director Ken Rearden.

Yet Rearden said the county was hoping to get another letter of support from city officials on the construction of Glades Reservoir.

City officials sent a letter to county officials in late May expressing their support for the county-owned reservoir, but Rearden said the Environmental Protection Division needs something more specific, “like that letter we’ve got from Forsyth County.”

He said city and county officials are trying to hash out details of how both their needs can be met. On the county’s end, Cedar Creek is vital to the future of Glades Reservoir.

“We’re not quite there yet, but we’re getting there,” Rearden said.

Kelly Randall, director of the Public Utilities Department, said the plant at Cedar Creek will be designed to allow for expansion if the county wants to pass water from its future 850-acre Glades Reservoir to Cedar Creek for treatment.

By the time the project moves from its design phase to construction, city officials will have a better idea of how Hall County would like to use the reservoir in conjunction with Glades and whether Magnuson’s 2009 ruling will be upheld, said City Manager Kip Padgett.

“Those are all part of the evaluations that we would like to do with the design front to make sure that what we put together does not necessarily close any doors on us and gives us the maximum flexibility,” Yari said.

If the council approves the Public Utilities Department’s recommendation, design could begin by the middle of this month at a cost that could range between $1.15 million and $1.55 million.

The department originally projected the design costs to near $2 million.