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Residents note issues at Glades Reservoir meeting
County would have 10 years to build if approved
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The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers held a public scoping meeting on the Glades Reservoir project at Gainesville State College on Tuesday afternoon.

About the hearings

Senior political reporter Ashley Fielding is covering all three Glades Reservoir hearings. Today's story is about the hearing in Gainesville. On Thursday, she'll report on the hearing in Auburn, Ala., and on Friday, she'll report from Apalachicola, Fla. On Sunday, she'll examine what's next for the project. Follow her on Twitter @gtimespolitics.

 

The issues brought to the table Tuesday were hyperlocal.

Alan Atwood, of Gainesville, came to Gainesville State College to find out how building a reservoir to provide Hall County with water for the next 50 years would affect his bottom line.

He said his wife, who is in Italy, sent him on the errand to Gainesville State where a number of experts were available to talk about the Glades Reservoir proposal Tuesday afternoon.

But most of the information available from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and consultants with the engineering firm AECOM had little to do with money.

On display at Gainesville State on Tuesday was Hall County's assumptions about the impacts of building an 850-acre reservoir in North Hall.

The same presentation will be made today in Auburn, Ala., and on Thursday in Apalachicola, Fla., in the hopes of narrowing the scope of an in-depth study of what social, economic and environmental consequences building the reservoir might have on stakeholders in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river basin.

While looking over the information Tuesday, Lula resident Tim Haynes noticed a future pipe that would carry water from the Chattahoochee River to Cedar Creek Reservoir would also pass through his nearly 30-acre property on Ga. 365.

"The way they've got it laid out right now it would," said Haynes.

He wanted to make sure his family would be justly compensated.

"There's always going to be a need for water, and I don't know that we're opposed to (the reservoir) as long as there's adequate compensation, because the more that you give up as far as frontage on 365 on a prime piece of commercial property, of course, the less valuable it is."

Pipes for transporting water from the proposed Glades Reservoir are a long way down the road, considering a permit is more than a year away and if it's approved, the county has some 10 years to build Glades. Even then, the county may hold off on building pipes connecting Glades and Cedar Creek until the water is needed.

The meetings this week throughout the basin are meant to garner feedback from the basin's stakeholders.

The basin, of which Lake Lanier and the future Glades Reservoir are a part, has long been the source of controversy between Georgia, Florida and Alabama.

Because of that history, the corps is embarking on an in-depth study of the impacts of building Glades Reservoir upstream of Lake Lanier.

The comments gathered in meetings this week and throughout a public comment period that lasts until April 17, is to determine the focus of that in-depth study.

The study will address certain impacts of the proposed reservoir regardless of public input, including impacts on the environment.

That was one of the issues Cassie Tamblyn noted as she looked over the map of the project Tuesday. Tamblyn said she was concerned with the amount of pipe that would need to be buried underground to carry the water.

"That disturbs a lot of things," said Tamblyn, a 28-year-old student at Gainesville State.

By its own estimates, the county's new reservoir would adversely affect 39.2 acres of wetlands and 95,000 linear feet of streams. AECOM, a consultant paid by the Hall County Board of Commissioners, is verifying the county's assumptions. The corps promises an independent review of AECOM's findings.

"We will review everything that's prepared by AECOM ourselves," said David Crosby, deputy chief of the regulatory division at the corps' Savannah district office.

The government argues the reservoir is needed to meet the county's water needs through the year 2060. It wants to build a 119-foot-high dam on Flat Creek to hold water pumped in from the Chattahoochee River. The government promises to return the water to the river during periods of dryness, meaning the reservoir would be "drawn down quite a bit during periods of drought," said AECOM project manager Tai Yi Su.

By then, the county would need another 72.5 million gallons of water per day, according to documents the county submitted to the corps.

That assumption, however, is based on the assumption that the county's population will rise above 800,000 by then and that Gainesville will have access to only 18 million gallons of Lake Lanier's water.

If Gainesville's access to Lanier holds, by 2060, the county would need an additional 46.5 million gallons each day.

If approved, the county would pump water from the Chattahoochee to store in Cedar Creek Reservoir in the Oconee River basin. The water would be treated and sent to customers from there.

The county's assumptions also show very little impact on Lake Lanier, estimating the new reservoir could reduce the level of the massive Lanier by 3.5 inches in dry times.

Both AECOM and the corps will work in the next several months verifying the county's assumptions about the project, and analyze whether there are alternatives to building the reservoir, said spokeswoman Tracy Robillard.

Crosby said a draft of an environmental impact statement, detailing the impacts of the reservoir, could be done as early as December. A final draft could be another 12 months behind that, he said.

So far, Hall County leaders have spent $11.4 million on the project for fees associated with purchasing the land, planning the reservoir, buying a private partner out of the project and attempting to obtain permits for construction. A good bit of the engineering fees are being paid through a specially purposed sales tax.

Construction costs are still an unknown, but one estimate is at $300 million.

And that estimate is among Atwood's main concerns.

"These projects always come up with a number of what it's going to cost and then it ends up doubling, tripling or quadrupling in the time it takes to do it, so it's one of the annoying things about these things," said Atwood. "I assume it's going to be paid by your water bill, and I don't know if there's going to be any additional tax."

 

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