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Commissioner opposes reservoir

Requests adoption of resolution

POSTED: June 19, 2013 4:00 a.m.

At least one county commissioner is opposed to the use of state or federal dollars to fund a proposed local reservoir.

Dawsonville's mayor, meanwhile, said the debate is now moot as the reservoir currently is a "dead issue" due to the city's failure to secure funding to move the concept forward and the lack of a state permit to pursue the project.

District 1 Commissioner Gary Pichon last week asked the county commission to approve a resolution that details financial concerns regarding the Calhoun Creek Reservoir, a massive dam supported by officials with the city of Dawsonville.

"We should oppose this reservoir for a lot of different reasons," Pichon said.

Pichon cited the county's service delivery agreement with the city, plans for the Russell Creek Reservoir less than 5 miles from the proposed site and a lack of public input on the project as reasons for his opposition.

"The public has a right to have input in this. Right now, I'm not seeing any of that," he said. "To me, these are really big changes, and it doesn't matter what side you come down on, at least it ought to be done with the public being very, very aware of it."

The proposed Calhoun Creek Regional Reservoir near Hwy. 9 North would straddle the Dawson-Lumpkin county line and fall within the city limits of Dawsonville. The reservoir would draw from the Etowah and Chattahoochee river basins.

Also at issue for Pichon is the city's lack of effort to include the county in discussions regarding the proposed dam.

"They have not talked to anybody in the county that I know of formally. We have offered to get together to talk about the land use plan issue, which I think this reservoir is part of the whole land use plan," he said.

"From a comprehensive plan, Dawson County has not been involved in discussions with the Calhoun Creek Reservoir, therefore, Dawson County cannot determine the impact of the proposed Calhoun Creek Reservoir on Dawson County."

In February, the city of Dawsonville applied for two surface water withdrawal permits from the Georgia Environmental Protection Division, that if approved would allow the city to pull water from the Etowah River and store it in the proposed Calhoun Creek Regional Reservoir.

The city also applied for a $20,000 state grant to cover a feasibility study on the project, in addition to the more than $20 million in direct state investment as part of the Governor's Water Supply Project.

After receiving recent confirmation that both funding mechanisms have been denied, Dawsonville Mayor James Grogan said he now considers the reservoir a "dead-issue."

"I don't know why everybody keeps reviving it. We applied for the permit - we don't have a permit. We applied for the ONE Georgia Grant - we did not get the ONE Georgia Grant. I met with the governor and asked for the money to take down the land. We are not able to do that because there is no money available," he said.

"The governor clearly stated that there are five or six other projects that are well ahead of our project and that any money would go to those projects first. He said he couldn't afford $20 million to take down the land and let it sit for 10 years."

According to the city's application, the cost breakdown of its project would have involved $20 million to acquire land and $162 million in various engineering, construction and miscellaneous fees for a total of $182 million.

Per the application, the city's request for a $20 million direct state investment was intended to cover the land acquisition, with "all other portions of the project" coming from "private investment."

Pichon said using taxpayer dollars for the project goes against "common sense."

"It's, I think, an unwise use of taxpayer money for a selected few. I don't understand why the city would even want to undertake this," he said.

The county commission is expected to vote on Pichon's resolution during its July 2 meeting.

 

 

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