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Proposed Shoal Creek Reservoir creates debate
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More than a dozen people weighed in on the proposed Shoal Creek Reservoir and grand park idea at Thursday evenings Dawson County Board of Commissioners special called meeting.

The meeting was called to hold the second of two public hearings on a reservoir that is proposed for the 10,000-acre tract of the Dawson Forest Wildlife Management Area.

The City of Atlanta owns the tract - which is located in the southern portion of Dawson County - and it originally was purchased as a possible location for a second airport.

At the first hearing earlier this month, Etowah Water & Sewer Authority (EWSA) of Dawsonville and Republic Resources of New Jersey each presented their plans for the 10,000-acre tract. Both plans would feed a 2,000-acre reservoir off of Shoal Creek and the Etowah and Amicalola rivers, and maintain the remaining 8,000 acres for a grand park.

Speakers brought up numerous concerns about the impact the reservoir could have - including the downstream and endangered species impacts.

There are still issues to be addressed - downstream uses, endangered species - and fully vetted before any reservoir can be developed, said EWSA General Manager Brooke Anderson. These are valid concerns.

Glenn Page, general manager of the Cobb County-Marietta Water Authority, addressed concerns from downstream on behalf of the authority and the City of Canton.

Were not opposed to this project, however we want to make sure that the planning for any project should take into consideration the effect of the flow of the Etowah past other projects downstream, Page said. Preliminary analysts of the safe-yield projections of this project have indicated that it could impact and possibly severely impact the yield of our reservoir, which we have already completed.

The Cobb County-Marietta Water Authority and the City of Canton partnered to build the Hickory Log Creek Reservoir, also a pump-storage project, that feeds off the Etowah River as well.

So, we make ourselves available to help and work with you on a technical basis, but I just ask that you take that into consideration as you move forward, Page added.

Conservation agencies also came to speak toward the preservation of the 10,000 acres and against the proposed reservoir.

We have over the years certainly supported the idea of permanently preserving Dawson Forest, said Will Wingate, vice president of advocacy and land conservation for the Georgia Conservancy. Were here today to offer an opportunity to partner with you. If you would like to create a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax or some idea in order to help you permanently preserve this area without a reservoir. It is simply too important of a tract to be intact, to not be preserved as it is.

I want to preserve as much as I can in greenspace for the use of the people of the state of Georgia and if the reservoir is the means to do that, then Im for the reservoir, said Dawson County District 1 Commissioner Gary Pichon following the meeting.

Pichon is an advocate of the grand park and requested to hold the public hearings to get input from citizens.

I wish the community as a whole would understand that we do not own that property, the state does not own that property in the Dawson tract and the county does not own that property, Pichon said. The City of Atlanta is free under the law of Georgia to sell that to whomever they wish right now and that land could be developed into anything.

Control over that property is at the heart of this issue and many share the fear of developing the tract.

I heard we mentioned several times in relation to this property, as if we own this property, what are we going to do with the property that we have here, we have this jewel, said Jim King, EWSA board chair. The fact of the matter is we dont have it, the City of Atlanta has it. And we dont have any control over it right now. And thats one thing that we, Etowah Water & Sewer Authority, are trying to accomplish here. We would like to have some control of this.

Development on the property could be further away than most imagine, according to Dawson County Chairman Mike Berg.

According to the mayor of Atlanta, last week, its going to be a while before anything transpires there, Berg said. He is committed to the governor that he is interested in helping the governor as they go through the water wars.