Reservoir management board looks to Deal for project funding

By jess

Posted: Sunday, February 20, 2011

By Brian Arrington WaltonTribune.com

The Hard Labor Creek Management Board will look to use a portion of Gov. Nathan Deal’s $300 million reservoir project cache to move the HLC Reservoir project forward.

Precision Planning Vice President Jimmy Parker, the project’s engineer, said the announcement of Deal’s plan to secure water for the state could benefit the HLC Reservoir project and recommended the board pursue funding.

“The local leadership in Walton and Oconee (counties) are preparing a formal request to the state, to solicit grant funding in the amount of $32 million over three years to facilitate the completion of the reservoir,” Parker said in an e-mail. “Both Walton and Oconee remain firm in their position that the award or acceptance of any such grant funding must be closely evaluated to ensure that the two counties retain full control and ownership of the Hard Labor Creek Project.”

“I think we are in a good position to ask for money,” said Jim Luke, Oconee County commissioner and vice chairman of the board.

If secured, the funds ensure Walton and Oconee would provide an answer to the state’s water woes, taking pressure off the state which is currently embroiled in a water war with Alabama and Florida.

“With a projected yield of 52 million gallons per day and all required permits in hand, the Hard Labor Creek project could have most significant and immediate impact on water supply capacity for the northeast Georgia region,” Parker said. “Furthermore, the progress achieved to date through local leadership and investment could accelerate project completion by 2014, years ahead of projects that are presently in the permitting phase.”

The total amount of initial bond proceeds for the HLC Reservoir project was about $59 million, Parker said. To date, about $30 million has been spent on land acquisition, relocation of the Georgia Transmission power lines, environmental mitigation, dam design, road relocation design and design of reservoir intake structure. The current balance in the project construction account is about $29 million, Parker said.

Since the State is still developing the water supply funding program, the type and allocation method for potential funding is still unknown at this point, he said.

“With the state still in the midst of water negotiations with Florida and Alabama, the fate of metro Atlanta’s water supply remains in jeopardy due to the 2012 Federal court deadline for withdrawals from the Chattahoochee River and Lake Lanier,” Parker said. “The location of the Hard Labor Creek project, proximity to Gwinnett County and the metro region, and the project’s 52 million gallons per day projected yield should make the HLC project a leading contender for potential state funds.

“Without additional state funding, the schedule for completion of the Hard Labor Creek Regional Reservoir project will remain largely dependent on future growth, economic recovery and local water demands.”

The project was first proposed in 1992 and is located in south Walton County. Once completed, the entire project could cost $370 million.