Posted: Sunday, January 4, 2015 12:00 am
By Robbie Schwartz
While many benchmarks were reached in last year, 2015 will be when residents of Walton County will see the tangible results of progress made on the Hard Labor Creek Reservoir.
“As water starts to fill up, I think people will come to see this as more of a reality,” Walton County Chairman Kevin Little said. “And economically our abundance of water will start to be a driving force in the county.”
As 2014 came to a close, clearing of the pool area is near completion and the reservoir dam was about 70 percent complete. The raw water intake structure was about 95 percent complete and all of the work was estimated to be about 80 percent complete for Social Circle-Fairplay Road, with traffic having been diverted to the new alignment and 750-foot bridge that will span the completed reservoir. Work on Mount Paron Church Road was also completed.
A goal has been set of April for completion of the dam and the filling of the reservoir will begin, which will take an estimated two years before reaching full pool depending on rainfall. Completion of the raw water intake structure is scheduled for February and the last remaining bridge will be complete for Social Circle-Fairplay Road spanning Reedy Creek. Design and construction of the first phase of the planned recreation and public access area will also be done this year, which will include a public boat ramp and parking area. This area will be closed until the reservoir fills.
And while the project is nearing a homestretch as far as much of the construction is concerned for the initial phase of the project, it has done so under budget.
“The project is trending under budget by about $5.8 million,” said Jimmy Parker, project manager and vice president of Precision Planning Inc. “The road relocations and water intake structure are anticipated to be finished under original budget projections. The reservoir dam has experienced some minor overages due to weather delays, latent soil conditions and other factors. Costs for the reservoir dam are currently trending 3 percent above original budget projections, but well under the designated 10 percent contingency funds that were set aside by the Reservoir Management Board to address any issues during construction.”
The first phase of the project has been funded in part through expenditures of county money as well as bonds issued by both Walton and Oconee counties, who are partners in the project. In 2012 the project, which had been at a standstill for months as a result of the downturn in the economy, received a boost in the form of being named a recipient of two low interest state loans, the second of which was activated in 2014. The initial price tag has been projected at $91 million, which includes about $11.3 million in local funding, $47.7 million in bonds issued by both counties in 2008 and $32 million in loans from the Governor’s Water Supply Program. Once complete, the reservoir will provide 37 million gallons a day for Walton County and 15 million gallons a day for Oconee, a split based on the financial share each had in the endeavor.