The debate has heated up over the past couple of weeks regarding the proposed reservoir on Shoal Creek in the Dawson Forest Wildlife Management Area.
The Dawson County Board of Commissioners has been presented two different, yet similar, plans that would preserve nearly 80 percent of the 10,000 acres as a wildlife area and park.
Commissioners will have a tough decision ahead of them and we do not envy them that decision. Its difficult to say what is the right decision. There is no question that a reservoir is needed in the region, but is this the right location?
The major concern shared by many in the county is that the City of Atlanta owns that property and that Dawson and its citizens have nearly no say in the future of Dawson Forest.
And there is safety in the proposed reservoir projects, because Dawson would have a voice. The land would be purchased by one of two companies - Etowah Water & Sewer Authority or Republic Resources - from the City of Atlanta. Each company has already promised to include the county government in the governing of the park.
But a reservoir has its drawbacks - some of which include possible legal issues, endangered species and potential impact on the Shoal Creek water basin. Many of the citizens and conservation groups who spoke would like to see Dawson Forest preserved as it currently sits.
But is that possible? A representative of the Georgia Conservancy suggested to commissioners that it would help support a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) to allow the county to purchase the land outright.
Were not sure that a SPLOST could pass in these current economic times, much less raise enough money to pay back the bonds in time. Dawson also currently is collecting SPLOST money on the courthouse bonds.
There are many issues to be weighed as this discussion moves forward. Even if the reservoir doesnt happen right now, we think there is little danger in seeing large scale development in Dawson Forest - at least in the short-term. So, it might be possible for commissioners to let this issue simmer for a couple more years.
But, no matter the decision, we encourage the county to tread lightly and proceed with caution as this project inches forward.