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Glades Reservoir backers stress its importance
Consultants tell Hall commissioners 'you need to act now' to build water reserve
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Water experts working on the Glades Reservoir project answered tough questions from the public and the Hall County Board of Commissioners as they expressed the importance of the reservoir at a special workshop Tuesday morning.

Tommy Craig, an attorney specializing in reservoir permitting, gave a presentation on the history and current status of the proposed 850-acre, 80-million-gallon per day reservoir in North Hall.

Craig emphasized the importance of moving quickly to file an application for the reservoir with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

"You need to act now. The time is ripe," Craig said. "Things change. Things don't remain constant."

A combination of factors make this is an important juncture to get this reservoir project in motion, he said.

The natural topography of the land, coupled with low construction costs and the support for the project at the federal level put the Glades Reservoir in the right position to supply future water needs for the area.

Many asked questions about the costs involved in the project, which are estimated at more than $300 million.

"This community can afford to build that dam and that reservoir," Craig said. "The money will be there from the revenue associated with the retail sale of water."

There were also questions about the regional demand for the water from Glades in light of a potential reservoir in Dawson County.

The Etowah Water and Sewer Authority, the purveyor of water and sewer services for Dawson County, is hoping to obtain a 10,000-acre tract in Dawson County owned by the city of Atlanta to build a reservoir that could supply as much as 100 million gallons per day.

Harold Reheis, a consultant for the Glades Reservoir and a former director of the Georgia Environmental Protection Agency, said the project in Dawson County is years behind and has yet to even gain approval from the city of Atlanta.

"In order for that thing to fly there's a lot of things that have to happen," Reheis said. "Right now, state law says that water can only be used in the Etowah River basin. The need is in the Chattahoochee basin ... if they don't have customers it won't happen."

Commissioner Ashley Bell pointedly asked Reheis and other consultants if they were working on the potential Dawson County reservoir.

Joe Tanner, one of the main consultants on Glades and a former commissioner of the Department of Natural Resources, said his firm had been contacted by the Etowah Sewer Authority to gauge the feasibility of the project, though the project is still in an exploratory stage.

Juliet Cohen, general counsel for the Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, said the watchdog group is concerned the river will not be able to sustain both the Glades Reservoir and Lake Lanier.

"This is now a completely different project. Originally the idea was to yield about 6 million gallons just from Flat Creek," Cohen said. "Now the idea is to withdraw almost 100 million gallons daily with pump storage at two different locations on the Chattahoochee River."

In 2009, county officials submitted a permit to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for permission to build Glades Reservoir and withdraw 6.7 million gallons per day, enough to accommodate future growth in Hall County.

However, the plan was reconsidered after U.S. District Court Judge Paul Magnuson ruled Lake Lanier was not a federally authorized source of drinking water for metro Atlanta, potentially putting Glades Reservoir in the position of becoming a major water supplier if the ruling is upheld.

Hall County plans to build a large intake pump on the Chattahoochee River north of Belton Bridge Road above the Corps of Engineers' jurisdiction to help fill the reservoir.

Originally, the county planned to fill the reservoir by damming Flat Creek. The project now will be what is known as a pump storage reservoir by adding water from the Chattahoochee to increase the capacity more than tenfold.

Oliver said the important thing is to get the federal permit for the reservoir first.

"There's not any reason Alabama and Florida have a need to work with the state of Georgia. I think it's very important to us that we protect our own destiny here with this project," Oliver said. "If we don't get the permit, we will leave Hall County and this community very susceptible to what happens in other parts of the state and other parts of the world."

Carl Nichols, the land manager for the owners of the Glades Farm property, was also present. He has been involved with the project from its start in 1993 when it was public-private partnership. Though the Glades owners are no longer involved with the reservoir, he urged the county to continue with the project.

"I would ask you to get this permit back on the corp's active roll of permitting now. We're not looking at one year, five years, we're looking at a 50-year span of time that this water is important."