Reservoir land costs coming in under budget

By jess

Posted: Wednesday,January 27, 2010

By Robbie Schwartz (WaltonTribune.com)

With the construction season quicklyapproaching, January's meeting of the Hard Labor Creek Management Board focusedon getting final pieces in place to start moving dirt on various projectsassociated with the more than $350 million project.

The meeting started by highlightingthe fact 48 percent of the total land required for the project has beenacquired using only 31 percent of the budget set aside for land acquisition. Anadditional 11 percent of land needed is under negotiation.

Much of the meeting was spentconsidering final bridge recommendations for the relocation of SocialCircle-Fairplay Road. Three bridge proposals were developed in September 2009but at the time it was determined a comprehensive geotechnical study was neededto determine the subsurface conditions at the proposed bridge site. Concernsraised at the initial meeting included slope stability, settlement and waitingperiods.

At the meeting last week, boardmembers - including officials from Walton and Oconee counties, who are partnersin the reservoir - were presented the findings of the study by Clough Harbourand Associates as well as their recommendation.

The three proposals focused on bridges of 450, 600 and 750 feet and the embankments required. CHA's study determined the longest spanning bridge was the most cost effective at a conservative estimate of $2.9 million. The study cited it as the lowest estimated construction cost with no stream channel realignment needed, no waiting period for embankment construction, small disturbed area and minimal temporary erosion control needed as well as fewer uncontrollable variables during construction.

"Basically, when we looked at this, when you get to embankments of that height, there are technical complexities," said CHA's Tom Karis at the meeting. "At the end of the day, you wouldn't think a bridge would be cheaper than an embankment. It is ... and from our point of view, a much better option."

The overall estimate of $5.9 million for every aspect of the bridge construction would be $1.3 million less that budgeted, Precision Planning Inc.'s Jimmy Parker said at the meeting. PPI serves as the project management firm for the project. The board approved use of the third design for the roadway.

Also at the meeting:

The board was told to expect approval for the dam design within the next month or two. There have been delays at the state level because of the impact heavy rains have had on bridges across the state.

The board approved a contract to CH2M-Hill for engineering design services for the reservoir intake structure, where raw water is collected and pumped from the reservoir to the treatment facility. The contract was awarded for $260,300 and excluded construction services. A total of about $440,000 was budgeted for the services.

The board talked about the recommendations and findings of Gov. Sonny Perdue's Water Contingency Planning Task Force. The report dashed most of the hopes of receiving state monies to aid in the project as the task force determined Lake Lanier was still the best option, followed by stricter conservation measures, re-use of potable water and expanding current reservoirs. No mention was made of new reservoirs like Hard Labor Creek Reservoir.

"Specific to new reservoir projects, it will be interesting to see what money will be out there," Parker said. "This doesn't mean there's not still funding options out there."