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Hall wants to form water authority with Gainesville
Letter asks city to delay plant
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Hall County is hoping to work with Gainesville officials to build a water treatment plant to serve the Glades and Cedar Creek reservoirs.

The request comes partly in response to U.S. District Court Judge Paul Magnuson’s July 17 ruling that nearly all Georgia’s withdrawals from Lake Lanier are illegal, leaving local leaders in a rush to find alternative water sources.

Commission Chairman Tom Oliver said he would like to form a city-county water authority to finance the construction of a treatment plant that would be large enough to serve both reservoirs.

"It’s the best of both worlds having the city and county working together," Oliver said. "At this time we feel like it is beneficial to do this together."

Oliver sent a letter addressed to Gainesville Mayor Myrtle Figueras asking the city to consider delaying the Cedar Creek treatment plant.

Hall County has control of the water withdrawal permit for the Cedar Creek Reservoir.

Gainesville Public Utilities Director Kelly Randall said the city is in the process of considering engineering candidates to work on the project.

City Councilman Danny Dunagan said he thinks it would be unwise for the city to wait any longer in light of the recent ruling on the tri-state water rights issue.

"We’re planning a treatment plant on a reservoir that’s already there," Dunagan said. "We can’t wait seven or eight years (until the Glades Reservoir is complete) to do that."

Councilman George Wangemann said he is open to the possibility of working with the county on a facility but doesn’t want to form a water authority.

"I’m very skeptical about water authorities," Wangemann said. "It does take accountability away from the elected official."

The letter was sent to the city before the board of commissioners had the opportunity to meet and discuss the issue.

Commissioners Steve Gailey and Billy Powell said they supported Oliver’s idea.

"It’s an opportunity for us to work together toward the common good," Powell said.

"I think that’s a great idea," said Gailey.

Commissioner Ashley Bell would have preferred more time to discuss the matter before it was made public.

"Glades Farm is going to change the long-term landscape," Bell said. "We’ve got to slow down here and understand we all have a role to play."

The ruling on Lake Lanier is what made the county consider a water treatment plant for the Glades Reservoir site in the first place.

Previously, the county was interested in releasing water from the proposed reservoir into Lake Lanier through what is known as a flow-through augmentation system. The water would then be pumped out at the existing Gainesville plant.

This original plan would have been more cost effective, but the ruling has made it very unlikely that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would issue the county what is known as a storage permit to do that.

The county will be able to bypass working with the corps by building its own water treatment plant.

Hall County is also asking for a 90-day extension to alter its permit application to the U.S. Corps of Engineers in light of the ruling.