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Authority pushes for proposed reservoir

POSTED: June 13, 2012 4:00 a.m.

The Etowah Water and Sewer Authority continues to make plans for a reservoir along Shoal Creek, although the property owner hasn’t agreed to join in the project.

The proposed 2,000-acre reservoir would be built on the hilly wooded landscape of Dawson Forest, a 10,000-acre tract the city of Atlanta has owned since the early 1970s.

The project would cost an estimated $650 million over an eight- to 12-year construction period. Officials propose selling water to the rest of the region at a rate of about 100 million gallons a day.

The authority was presented an update on the project last week by its partner American Water Corp.

“We need to secure the reservoir property from Atlanta,” said John Young, past president of American Water Corp. “I know we’ve heard that many, many times before, but we’ve got to keep plugging away.”

After three years of talks with the city, no definite decision has been made. Yet, American Water and the authority have begun arranging private financial support and are working to obtain state funding.

According to an application summary published May 4, the authority is seeking a $3 million loan under the Governor’s Water Supply Program from the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority for reservoir “planning and permitting costs.”

On June 5, Young and Senior Vice President Mark F. Strauss told the authority’s board of directors that they had recently met with Michael Sterling, senior adviser to Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed.

Accompanying them for the first time was Greg Mason, chief operating officer for GEFA, the state-funded entity overlooking the authority’s requested loan.

During the meeting, Sterling was presented with updated project information, the letter of intent and agreements.

“I think the most important thing is that we’ve told the city that they have to make a decision quickly,” Young said. “… We’re just emphasizing speed is important.”

Sterling, who declined to comment on the matter, is expected to discuss the reservoir plan with Reed during a conference this week.

The mayor is reportedly open to a partnership, although no definitive decision has been made, officials said.

“I feel very positive about it,” said Jim King, the authority’s chairman. “I think things are moving along in a positive direction.”

Young, now a court-appointed receiver at Jefferson County Environmental Services Department in Alabama, said he had hoped the negotiating would move faster.

“I didn’t think it was going to take this long to get to this point,” he said. “… But if you don’t get it started, then you don’t get it done.”

In the next 18 months, he said the groups working on the project plan to conduct a feasibility study. Among the factors they would be looking at: the projects’ hydrologic capabilities; environmental and financial impact; conceptual design; and cost estimate.

The proposed 2,000-acre reservoir would be built on the hilly wooded landscape of Dawson Forest.

The 10,000-acre site has remained untouched for four decades since Atlanta bought it as a possible second airport site. In 2007, the city turned down a $30 million offer to sell the land, which it bought for $5 million.

David Bennett, senior policy adviser for the city, said in an e-mail Tuesday that Atlanta is still unsure “how to best return value to its tax and rate payers.”

“At present, no firm decision has been made on the future of the property,” Bennett wrote, adding that “much detailed fieldwork is required before anyone can be sure how successful the site will be” for the purpose of a reservoir.

GEFA officer Greg Mason sent a letter to Brooke Anderson, general manager of the authority, on June 8 announcing that the $3 million loan request could not go before the board without Atlanta’s approval.

“Given the critical role the city of Atlanta plays in the future of the proposed Shoal Creek Reservoir, GEFA requests that Etowah provide a copy of a letter, statement or other document from the city of

Atlanta that verifies Atlanta’s commitment to work with the Etowah,” Mason wrote.

 

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