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Glades Reservoir put on corps' list of federal projects
Public comment period will be open for 60 days
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A proposal to build a reservoir in North Hall is about to get a public airing.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will list the Glades Reservoir proposal on its federal register of projects this week, a source with the agency's Savannah district said Tuesday.

Publication in the federal register is one of the first tangible steps toward a permit to build Glades.

The designation serves as notice that the corps plans to consider Hall County's plans to build a reservoir in the Chattahoochee basin upstream of Lake Lanier.

It also kicks off a 60-day public comment period on Hall County's proposal to build Glades, which county officials hope could provide as much as 80 million gallons of water to area residents and industries each day.

Essentially, the spot in the federal register means the county's application for permission to build Glades is complete, said Hall County's Public Works Director Ken Rearden.

More importantly, it means the project is "right on target," Rearden said.

"I'm very pleased with the progress of this," Rearden said.

County officials praised the news Tuesday as progress in their yearslong efforts for the future reservoir.

"I think it really reinforces the county's position that we're moving forward (with Glades)," said Hall County Board of Commissioners Chairman Tom Oliver.

Commissioner Ashley Bell said Glades' listing in the register "gives us a chance to see exactly where we stand on this project."

"We've had an opportunity to get our side of the story together about why we think this is a good idea for Hall County and the region. I think we have a solid argument," said Bell. "By posting it in the federal register, I think that now the world gets to see what we're doing and now they get to comment on it."

Along with the 60-day public comment period, the listing in the federal register also means the corps will hold informational meetings in Georgia, Florida and Alabama about the scope of the proposed project.

Each is part of the gauntlet the project must go through before the corps awards county officials a permit to dam up a section of Flat Creek, a tributary of the Chattahoochee River.

"We're just getting started in this process," said Billy Birdwell, a spokesman for the corps' Savannah district.

At some point after those initial meetings, a draft of an environmental impact statement will be made public, detailing the social, economic and environmental consequences of building the reservoir, Birdwell said.

The engineering firm AECOM is preparing the statement at the county's expense under the corps' supervision.

Rearden hopes the draft of the statement will be complete by the end of the year. Once it is, the public will have yet another chance to comment on the project.

Bell said he's interested to see what other groups say about the county's plans and gauge the opposition to the project.

Glades has already faced a tougher permitting process than any other reservoir project in Georgia, because of its connection to Lake Lanier and the decades-long litigation between the three states that use the water flowing out of Buford Dam.

Lake Lanier is the largest reservoir in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River basin. Its water is used to supply some 3 million people in metro Atlanta with water.

Georgia has been awarded the most recent victory in its fight with Florida and Alabama over rights to the basin; last summer the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a decision that water supply was not a federally authorized use of Lake Lanier.

Alabama and Florida on Monday appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the issue.

And Bell isn't going to be surprised if the two states have a "similar opposition" to Hall County's plans to build a reservoir in the same basin.

"I don't think we should be surprised," Bell said. "I think we should just be ready."