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State cuts won’t sink reservoir

Authority still plans to build at Russell Creek

POSTED: September 7, 2008 5:03 a.m.
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Russell Creek is the site where Etowah Water and Sewer Authority plans to build a new water storage reservoir.

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Etowah Water and Sewer Authority General Manager Brooke Anderson had planned this week to apply for a share of $40 million in state grants to build reservoirs in Georgia.

 

Last Thursday, he learned the governor had pulled the funding, leaving the authority back at square one with a $36 million reservoir project to fund entirely on its own.

 

“We’re very disappointed in the governor’s decision,” Anderson said. “We’ve got what we feel is the most viable reservoir project in the state at this time.”

 

Etowah Water and Sewer Authority in 2007 announced plans to construct The Russell Creek Reservoir, a 137-acre watershed reservoir off Etowah River Road with plans to begin construction as early as 2010.

 

The authority was going to seek $12 million in state funding.

 

Anderson said while Gov. Sonny Perdue’s action last week to reallocate funding to “essential government services and programs” is a setback, the water and sewer authority plans to continue to move forward.

 

“We had always planned from the beginning to fund the reservoir ourselves,” Anderson said. “We were just hoping the grant would diminish some of the amount on the authority.”

 

Perdue in mid-May approved the state’s 2009 budget at $21 billion with expansion of water resources as a top priority.

 

“Georgia is a growing, thriving state and this budget provides a sound fiscal plan to sustain that growth over the next year and into the future,” the governor said in May.  “The FY09 budget strikes an important balance between wise investments and prudent cost-saving measures.”

 

Perdue, using the drought-affected shoreline of Lake Lanier, signed the Water Conservation and Drought Relief Act of 2008 into effect May 6.

 

“I want you to take a look behind me,” said Perdue, addressing fellow legislative leaders as well as state environmental officials who were present on the new bill’s signing in Hall County’s Van Pugh Park.

 

“We’ve got a beautiful reservoir with a lot of shoreline still left, but what you see is more than just a lake. It’s a vital resource for our state.”

 

Legislators intended the new bill to help remedy the state’s water woes by streamlining reservoir construction and expansion projects.

 

The efforts would make it a less intensive affair and take some of the financial burden off the shoulders of county water providers to help create new water reservoirs.

 

State agencies have now been asked to cut back spending and funding to only the most vital programs and services to offset a budgetary shortfall of a projected $1.6 billion. The reduction of funding available to local governments for water resources and infrastructure is a result of the nation’s slowing economy.

 

The Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority, which was administering the grant, was instructed to suspend the Georgia Water Supply Competitive Grant Program funded through an amended fiscal year 2008 appropriation of $40 million.

 

The authority was also notified to suspend distribution of the fiscal year 2009 allocation of $10 million in grant funding for the Georgia Land Conservation Program.

 

GEFA, which supports the governor’s decision, will work with current and prospective grant applicants to identify potential funding alternatives.

 

GEFA will also continue to provide low-interest loan funding through its traditional programs to help governments with their efforts to improve water resources, according to the authority.

 

Thirteen other cities and counties had already submitted applications. They include neighboring Dahlonega, to build a wastewater treatment system, and Cumming, to finish construction of a third pipe for water from Lake Lanier.

 

E-mail Michele Hester at michele@dawsonnews.com.

 

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