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City seeks funding for reservoir
Direct state investment could provide $20M
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The city of Dawsonville has taken another step toward making the Calhoun Creek reservoir a reality.

On April 30, the city applied for $20 million in direct state investment as part of the Governor's Water Supply Project through the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority.

According to Dawsonville Mayor James Grogan, the funding would not be a loan, but rather state sponsorship of a municipal project.

"Direct state investment is different from the loan portion of the Governors Water Supply Program," Grogan said. "Using direct state investment, the state takes an ownership interest in an asset associated with a water supply project.

"The project sponsor, in this case the city, may purchase the state's interest in the project ... at some point in the future, but is not required to do so."

According to Grogan, the environmental finance authority is reviewing the application.

"The state encouraged the city to apply for the funds, but the requests for funding are much larger than the pool of available funds," he said. "GEFA must announce its decisions on all of the applications by the end of June, and we do not anticipate hearing anything more definite before then."

Grogan went on to note that if the authority were to approve "all or part of the city's application, the city council will then need to vote to accept or decline the funds and approve the terms of its participation in the program."

According to a news release from the authority, it received 11 applications from communities seeking $140 million in funding for water supply projects.

The applications will be scored on basis of need, readiness, finances, regional cooperation and impact.

According to the city's application, the cost breakdown of its project involves $20 million to acquire land and $162 million in various engineering, construction and miscellaneous fees for a total of $182 million.

If funding is approved, the project likely could begin planning in 2017 and finish construction in 2023.

Per the application, the city's request for a $20 million direct state investment would cover the land acquisition, with "all other portions of the project" coming from "private investment."

The city council is weighing two possibilities for reservoirs. The first, Calhoun Creek, came from the Georgia Reservoir Company and the second, Etowah Hills, from the Etowah Hills Corporation.

The proposed Calhoun Creek Regional Reservoir would straddle the Dawson-Lumpkin County line and fall within the city limits of Dawsonville. The reservoir would draw from the Etowah and Chattahoochee river basins.

Etowah Hills could serve as an emergency reservoir rather than a regional water supply source and could reportedly be built on fewer acres and designed with much less impact on neighboring homes and the environment.

The Calhoun Creek proposal calls for a dam 2,000 feet wide by 230 feet tall and a 450-acre lake.

In comparison, the Etowah Hills dam would be 650 feet wide by 120 feet tall to create a 225-acre lake.

During its April 3 meeting, the city council voted to apply for a grant through One Georgia that would cover the cost of a feasibility study for the Calhoun Creek proposal.

In February, Grogan announced the city had applied for two surface water withdrawal permits from the Georgia Environmental Protection Division.

If approved, the permits would allow the city to pull water from the Etowah River and store it in the proposed Calhoun Creek reservoir.

Dawsonville was the first government to align with Georgia Reservoir Co. on the project, which also was pitched to officials in neighboring Forsyth and Lumpkin counties, as well as Dawson County.