Hard Labor Creek one of four Reservoir Projects requesting State Funds

By jess

Posted: Sunday, May 13, 2012 12:00 am

By Robbie Schwartz | 0 comments

http://waltontribune.com/news/article

The Hard Labor Creek Reservoir was among a dozen water projects that met a deadline for a piece of $120 million in state funding to be doled out this summer but is the only one of four proposed reservoir projects with permit in hand.

A total of $189,249,158 in projects were accepted by the state for consideration.

At the Walton County Board of Commissioners meeting Tuesday, project manager and Precision Planning Vice President Jimmy Parker went over the application process, why the direct investment funding option was selected, and after the meeting, discussed how the project compares to some of the others proposed.

"There is not another water project in the state of Georgia that has achieved what has been achieved here," Parker said, noting the reservoir sits "shovel ready" with a coveted U.S. Army Corps of Engineers 404 permit already approved.

Parker said the permit demonstrates there is already a need and with the two county's water systems, the project could have an impact on as many as 35 water systems in the region. He also indicated the project "should score very high" in the 100-point criteria state officials have indicate the decision will be based on - which includes need for project and location, project finances, readiness and timeliness as well as project approach and impact.

As Gov. Nathan Deal announced last year, the state would offer $300 million over the next three years, the Hard Labor Creek Management Board formed a task force of its members to follow the application process through to the end. In looking at the various funding methods offered by state officials, it was determined the initial preferred course of action - to seek a low-interest loan from the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority - was not desirable due to the slow pace of economic recovery and additional debt service requirement. Utilizing a direct state investment in the form of a equity ownership was not desirable because there was a potential for loss of control and capacity for the reservoir.

So reservoir management officials formally requested $32 million in direct investment that, if granted, would result in a 40-year lease between the Department of Community Affairs and the project management board - comprised of officials from Walton and Oconee counties.

In exchange for the state providing funding, project officials are offering the rights to the dam (estimated to be $20 million), the water intake structure ($3.3 million), 150-foot buffer around the pool of the reservoir ($6.2 million) as well as two mitigation sites ($3 million) and stream buffers ($1.9 million). The state would have rights to this property but would not be responsible for any of the operating or maintenance costs. At any point, though, project officials can buy back the state’s assets for fair market value less depreciation at the time the option is exercised.

"Things look pretty good going forward," Parker said at the meeting.

While several projects requested loans for permitting and planning, as well as development of groundwater wells and expansions of existing reservoirs, the 52-million-gallons-a-day capacity Hard Labor Creek Reservoir’s most likely competition will come from requests made for unpermitted new reservoir projects. This includes $32.6 million in a loan request as well as $11.7 million in direct state investment for the Bear Creek Reservoir in Newton County, which would have a yield of 28 million gallons a day. Paulding County officials requested $29.1 million in loans and $17.3 million in direct state investment for its Richland Creek Reservoir, which would have a capacity of 35 million gallons a day. The South Fulton Municipal Regional Water and Sewer Authority, comprised of Fairburn, Palmetto and Union City, requested $12 million in loans and $22.4 million in direct state investment for its Bear Creek Reservoir, which unofficially is projected to produce 16.4 million gallons of drinking water a day.

While a final decision of how the state's funding will be doled out is not expected until June, the Hard Labor Creek Reservoir Management Board will discuss the outlook for funding more during its regular monthly meeting, scheduled for 1 p.m. Tuesday at the board of commissioners meeting room at the Walton County Government Building on Hammond Drive in Monroe.