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Political Pulse: Cedar Creek truce may be a holding pattern
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Despite a few terse letters over the last two months, Gainesville and Hall County officials decided this week not to take the gloves off in their battle over Cedar Creek Reservoir.

In fact, for now, they're both stepping out of the ring.
Since 2010, at least, the two have bickered over an agreement they made in 2006.

We've written about it a number of times. The space in this column isn't long enough for me to rehash it.

But essentially, neither can agree on who controls the water sitting in that big pond off Timber Ridge Road.

It's worth a reminder here that Cedar Creek is currently the only and most immediate backup source of water for Hall County residents if somehow access to Lake Lanier is restricted or the county grows beyond the reservoir's capacity to keep it hydrated.

But there is no means to use the water, no pipes to pull it out, no plant to make it drinkable.

Gainesville spent $2 million last year designing a facility to do just that. It has put its plans to build the plant on hold for now.

The county has its own plans for Cedar Creek.
In September, it wrote the state Environmental Protection Division, saying it wanted to renew the permit to withdraw water from Cedar Creek.

Not only that, but the county wanted to pull a lot more water from the East Hall reservoir. (The county's plans for the proposed Glades Reservoir include Cedar Creek, making the existing reservoir a sort of middleman between the future Glades and water customers.)

The city was, of course, interested. A letter from Gainesville's then-mayor Ruth Bruner on Dec. 13 said the city was ready to get the issue of the Cedar Creek permit settled.

She said the city would "pursue other avenues" of conflict resolution if the two governments had not been able to make "substantial progress" toward resolution by the end of February.

Hall County Board of Commissioners Chairman Tom Oliver responded to Bruner's two-page letter with a paragraph that the county would get back to the city after the holidays.

When no response came, near the end of January, Gainesville's new mayor, Danny Dunagan, wrote back.

Mostly, he reiterated what Bruner had said back in December.

But he ended the letter noting that if the two governments could not start working toward agreement on their own by Feb. 29, then Gainesville was prepared to petition Hall County Superior Court to appoint a mediator who would do it for them.

Monday, two members of the city council and two members of the county commission sat down with each other.
Thirty minutes later, the urgency to resolve the issue of Cedar Creek was gone.

Each had agreed to hold off on the discussions until after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers releases a court-ordered report on how much water Gainesville should get out of Lake Lanier.

It was a moment of unity that came with little comment from either party.

County officials say the report is part of the information needed to negotiate on future use of Cedar Creek.

When I asked Dunagan later this week why the city was no longer in a hurry to resolve the issue of Cedar Creek, he still seemed adamant that the county and the city will come to terms by the end of the year.

He said it neither helped nor hurt the city to wait a few months if that's what the county wanted to do.

But Dunagan wrote a letter to Oliver on Thursday just to make sure he'd been clear about the city's feelings toward the county's plans to use Cedar Creek in their meeting Monday.

Waiting doesn't necessarily mean agreeing.

Ashley Fielding is a senior political reporter for The Times. Share your thoughts, news tips and questions with her: