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Etowah Water and Sewer Authority holds first of three meetings on reservoir project
A-Russell Creek Reservoir pic 1.JPG
Etowah Water and Sewer Authority General Manager Brooke Anderson discusses the Russell Creek Reservoir project during a public informational meeting on April 11. - photo by Jessica Taylor

The Etowah Water and Sewer Authority held an informational meeting Thursday night to update the community on the design and construction of the Russell Creek Reservoir that is set to be built out by the first quarter of 2023.

The reservoir will span 137 acres off Etowah River and Seed Tick roads and will accommodate 126,000 people, the projected population of Dawson County in 50 years. It will cost about $40 million.

The authority began the project in 2006 but did not get the necessary 404 permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to proceed until July 2017.

Since obtaining the permit, EWSA general manager Brooke Anderson said the authority has brought on engineers for the design work at the April 11 meeting.

Golder Associates, a Canadian based global consulting, design and construction company, was selected to design and build the project.

Originally permitted to construct an intake pump station out in the Etowah River to pull water out of the river and pump through a 24 inch water line to fill up the Russell Creek Reservoir, Anderson said engineers were able to provide a better and “much more environmentally sensitive solution” that would allow for significant savings and less intrusion of the river.

The existing water treatment plant, located just south of Hwy. 53 on the Etowah River, already has an intake pump station that was built in 2009 that can be modified instead of a second water intake pump being constructed.

“Through some modification the engineers have determined we can modify that pump station and pump through a 30 inch water line along the Etowah River and fill the reservoir from the intake pump station that we currently have,” Anderson said.

The plan is to now have a 30 inch water line that will be constructed behind a stream buffer which will allow the authority to pump water out of the Etowah River once to fill the reservoir and then use gravity flow to get the water back to the plant for treatment.

A principle spillway for the reservoir will also be constructed as part of the project, with gates at different depths to collect water at varying temperatures.

“In the summer time and even the winter, the lake can get hot on top and cold on the bottom or a lot of different things based on climate and temperature, but we still have to protect the aquatic species in Russell Creek and in the Etowah,” Anderson said. “The gates at different depths will allow water to be drawn at different temperatures and mix that water so that the water that is released from the reservoir into this creek will match the temperature of the river.”

The gates will also allow the authority to control the turbidity, or the amount of particles in the water, and the quality of water that is sent to the plant for treatment.

“When it’s raining you get a lot of silt or whatever runs into the lake, the top layer’s going to be dirty, but we can pull in water from the lower depth and vice versa if the water’s settled during different times of the year,” Anderson said.

Construction of 700 foot long, 700 foot wide and 110 foot deep earthen dam is still scheduled to begin in the first quarter of 2021, but the specialized construction of the water pipe on the left abutment of the dam will begin in early 2020 Anderson said.

A 12 foot tunnel on the left abutment will be excavated for placement of the 30 inch water line and a 72 inch storm water pipe.

“What that will allow is that this mass of dirt will not have any penetration through it at all. It will be a complete solid mass of dirt and material,” Anderson said.

Once the tunnel is constructed, it will be used to divert water from the existing reservoir while the new dam is being constructed.

“We’ll be able to divert the existing creek flow through that tunnel and allow for a dry construction of this dam,” Anderson said.

An auxiliary spillway that will be 300 feet wide and 1,000 feet long and a mix of grass, rock, gravel and dirt is also being constructed and Anderson said the authority envisions putting some picnic pavilions, a boat ramp and a boat dock in that area. Non-gas powered boats such as canoes, kayaks and boats with electric motors, would be allowed on the lake. Fishing along the bank is also envisioned.

After the necessary structures have been built, it will take a year to fill the reservoir and Anderson expects the reservoir to be completed and filled by the summer of 2024.

“That will bring together a 20 year project,” Anderson said. “By the time we get to 2024, we’re two years shy of 20 years to make this project happen and that will be a jubilant day to say the least.”

Two more informational meetings will be held in May and June. Dates have not been set at this time.