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Glades Reservoirs mention in corps water report perplexes, pleases
Corps: 850-acre water source reasonable and foreseeable to occur
Flat Creek flows through bottom land along Galde Farm Road where the proposed Glades Reservoir is to be located. This week the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority issued loans to three reservoir projects across the state, but Glades was not one of them.

Public hearing

What: Army Corps of Engineers draft water manual for the water basin including Lake Lanier

When: 4-7 p.m. Oct. 26

Where: Gainesville Civic Center, 830 Green St.

Wading through documents dictating future operations of the tri-state water basin isn’t like a breezy stroll along Lake Lanier’s sunny shoreline.

But, for Georgia water watchers, one major thing sticks out in the 794-page, highly technical draft report, which is set for a series of public hearings starting Oct. 26 in Gainesville.

The Army Corps of Engineers’ water manual accounts for 40 million gallons per day in water supply from the proposed Glades Reservoir in North Hall County.

The federal agency has yet to permit the proposed 850-acre in North Hall County reservoir — far from it. In fact, a draft environmental impact statement on the project has yet to be released.

That document’s release, which has been postponed three times in the past 13 months, is set for Oct. 30.

“I think it would make more sense to do the Glades (statement) first and see where that project is going before they incorporate it into the whole water control manual,” said Jason Ulseth, the lead river protection advocate and spokesman for the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper.

But while Glades’ inclusion in the water manual for the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin might perplex some, it pleases others.

“I’m encouraged by it. It shows that the corps is at least thinking about us,” said Richard Mecum, chairman of the Hall County Board of Commissioners. “I think it’s a very good sign.”

Also thrilled is Kit Dunlap, Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce president and CEO.

Glades has been in the North Georgia Metropolitan Water Planning District’s plans for years, said Dunlap, who serves on the organization’s governing board.

“The corps has been aware of this initiative for 10, 15 years,” she said. “It’s not as if we haven’t looked at it.”

Lisa Parker, corps spokeswoman, said that “even though the permit for the proposed project has not been completed, Glades Reservoir has been considered together with other water supply measures to address Georgia’s 2013 request (concerning lake withdrawals).”

Also, Glades “was reasonable and foreseeable to occur” as part of the manual update, she said.

The current manual for the basin was completed in 1958, shortly after Lake Lanier was formed.

The revision is intended to “improve operations for authorized purposes to reflect changed conditions since the manuals were last developed,” states a corps website dedicated to the manual update.

Glades’ 40 million gallons per day is part of gross withdrawals of 225 million gallons per day upstream of Buford Dam. If approved, the total projected cost for the reservoir could run about $130 million.

The corps “seems to be assuming that it’s going to be approved and put into operation,” said Clyde Morris, lawyer for Gainesville-based Lake Lanier Association, which is also combing through the corps documents.

The association “certainly would support water supply for Hall County and the city of Gainesville, but it’s really unclear to me, at least at the moment, exactly what the impact of Glades is going to be on water levels in Lake Lanier.

“I would say we’re in a sort of wait-and-see mode with respect to that question.”

The manual overall could be a dicey topic, especially as Georgia, Florida and Alabama have been locked in a two-decade “water war” over the sharing of water in the basin.

Georgia seemed to be getting an upper hand in the legal wrangling until last year when the U.S. Supreme Court accepted a lawsuit from Florida, which challenges Georgia’s “overconsumption” of water in the basin.

Florida alleges that such a trend has harmed the state economically, especially with the oyster industry in Apalachicola Bay. Georgia has denied Florida’s allegations.

“The corps’ plan is not good to Apalachicola River and Bay,” said Dan Tonsmeire, Ulseth’s counterpart with the Apalachicola Riverkeeper. “We’re worse off than we were before. There’s just a lot of shortcomings with (the analysis).”

He said his group is still reviewing the draft manual, so he couldn’t give many details “until I get further into it and make sure I’m on solid ground.”

Public input will be analyzed after the hearings in Georgia, Alabama and Florida, corps spokesman Patrick Robbins has said.

Final approval and implementation of the manual is expected in March 2017.

Public hearing

What: Army Corps of Engineers draft water manual for the water basin including Lake Lanier

When: 4-7 p.m. Oct. 26

Where: Gainesville Civic Center, 830 Green St.