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Authority secures loan for reservoir
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After nearly five months of waiting, Georgia has answered - partially - the Etowah Water and Sewer Authority's request for a loan.

"We had requested $25.5 million from the Governor's Water Supply Program and we received $10 million of that, which we are still extremely proud about," said Brooke Anderson, the authority's general manager.

The loan will help finance costs associated with the Russell Creek Reservoir project, which involves expanding the storage of an existing flood control dam on the creek.

The 137-acre pumped-storage reservoir would be filled with water from the Etowah River. The reservoir has a projected yield of 11.5 million gallons per day and provide 1.37 billion gallons of water storage in the Coosa River Basin.

The authority has been working since 2006 to develop the reservoir, which could serve a projected population of 125,000 past 2050, off of Etowah River Road.

The total cost of the reservoir project is estimated to be nearly $34.8 million.

The terms of the loan include a 40-year payback schedule with zero percent interest drawn during the loan drawdown, 2.03 percent interest during the repayment period, interest-only payments during the first seven years and no closing fees.

"We are tremendously excited about getting this loan at the terms and rates that we got it at," Anderson said. "It's simply unbeatable."

With part of the money secured, Anderson said that the next phases of the project are all tied into finalizing the permitting.

"Now we are resolving the final steps with the [U.S. Army] Corps of Engineers. We hope to have the [cumulative impact modeling] to them by the middle of September," he said. "We suspect it will take them 45-60 days to review and approve that work."

"Concurrent with that review and after, we will be working with the corps to write the final case document for the project, which determines the decision for the 404 permit. We are hopeful that around the end of the year, we will be in a position where we will be nearing or obtaining the permit."

According to the corps, a 404 permit is needed "for certain activities conducted in wetlands or other U.S. waters." This permit is usually required to move water among water basins.

Anderson said that after the permit is obtained, the authority would begin to look at "other options and opportunities to bridge the gap" in funding, whether through subsequent loan requests, bonding or private sources.

"Right now, our preferred mechanism is to keep all of the money between Etowah and the state, or potentially bonding," he said. "Private funding is certainly an option, but right now it's not something we are actively considering."