Hall County has temporarily withdrawn its permitting application for the planned Glades Reservoir, according to county officials.
This will mean a halt to payments to consultants on the project. The county has invested $16 million in the proposed 850-acre reservoir, including the purchase of land and working through the yearslong application process.
Officials say the move will give them time to re-evaluate the project and its need.
“Hall County fully intends to pursue its 404 permit with all deliberate speed and diligence once additional information is available,” Hall County spokeswoman Katie Crumley said.
Factors in the decision for the temporary halt include new population estimates for the area that call for slower growth than some earlier projections, a statement from the Environmental Protection Division that the project is no longer needed for water supply, and the ongoing tri-state water wars between Georgia, Alabama and Florida.
Gainesville officials have already pulled their support for the project, but county officials have roundly disputed the lower population projections.
Commissioner Scott Gibbs, whose district includes the Glades site, said he hoped to validate the project in the coming months.
“By no means are we pulling the permit” application entirely, he added.
The news was met with applause from environmental activists.
“Hall County simply cannot justify the need for this super expensive and highly engineered project for water supply when they have what they need already,” said Jason Ulseth, the lead river protection advocate and spokesman for the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper. “Engineers, lawyers and consultants have been filling their pockets, and taxpayers have been footing the bills.”
The state EPD has left open the prospect that the reservoir could be developed as additional storage to augment downstream flows on the Chattahoochee River in times of drought.
The existing timeline called for a final environmental impact statement to be released in August by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, with a permitting decision from the agency to come in November.
County officials have previously said they hope to be reimbursed by the state if the reservoir is used for regional purposes rather than simply securing the drinking water needs of local residents.
Another option to recoup the investment in the project could be selling mitigation rights from the land and turning it into a park.
“Hall County fully intends to pursue its 404 permit with all deliberate speed and diligence once additional information is available,” Hall County spokeswoman Katie Crumley said