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Glades Reservoir project not dead
With $16 million spent, Hall County biding time but keeping options open
Hall County Government Center

The dormant Glades Reservoir project isn’t dead — yet.

On Tuesday, the Hall County Board of Commissioners voted to extend for another year its letter of intent to move on the 850-acre reservoir project with Glade Farm and the Gainesville and Hall County Development Authority.

The extension is a housekeeping measure that the county is required to take each year, according to interim County Administrator Jock Connell and Scott Gibbs, a member of the Hall County Board of Commissioners whose district includes the project site.

Permitting work on the reservoir, named for Glade Farm in North Hall, started to cool off in 2015 after the Georgia Environmental Protection Division decided the reservoir wasn’t needed to supplement Hall County’s or metro Atlanta’s drinking water supply.

In the vision of Hall County officials going back some 20 years, the Glades project would supply water to Hall and, with any luck, be used to supplement the water supply of metro Atlanta — opening the door to the county being reimbursed by the state for its work on the reservoir.

Those plans hit trouble in the past couple of years as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which manages water flow from Lake Lanier, has been ordered to update the document that guides its operations on the lake, the master water control manual.

Meanwhile, the ongoing water dispute between Georgia and Florida has been making its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which will hear oral arguments in the case in January.

“We’ve just been sitting back waiting on things we don’t have control over,” Gibbs said.

There are some other reasons why the Glades project might not happen.

In early 2016, new population estimates generated by the governor’s planning and budgeting office suggested the area wasn’t growing fast enough to outpace the water supply — even though Hall County was expected to add another 127,000 residents by 2040.

That January, former EPD Director Judson Turner wrote to the Army Corps that “it is clear that Glades Reservoir is no longer part of any strategy to meet the water supply needs of the state through 2050.”

By April 2016, the project was put on ice by the county, despite the lengthy and expensive environmental impact statement being basically finished.

“It only requires a public hearing, and we need the EPD to provide a certificate of need for that water,” said Public Works Director Ken Rearden.

Hall officials paused their federal permits and halted payments to consultants assisting with the reservoir. The county has spent $16 million on the project in the past two decades.

On Tuesday, Georgia EPD spokesman Kevin Chambers said the state has not changed its position on the reservoir. The city of Gainesville pulled out of the project before the county announced it was pausing the permits and has not re-engaged with the work, according to Linda MacGregor, director of Gainesville’s Department of Water Resources.

Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, an environmental conservation group focusing on the Chattahoochee River basin and Lake Lanier, has long opposed the reservoir. It argues that Hall County has enough water supply to meet current and future needs.

The county hasn’t officially changed its position on the Glades project, but officials on Tuesday said there are other uses possible for those 850 acres.

“If we get all the water that we need, there’s not a need to do the project,” Gibbs said, later saying that the project represented 1,000 acres of prime Hall County property. “There are a multitude of uses for that property going forward because it’s some of the prettiest property in Hall County — and not just because it’s in my district.”

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