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Reservoir permits sought
City asks state for OK to pull Etowah water
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The city of Dawsonville may soon find itself in the reservoir business.

Mayor James Grogan announced Monday that the city has 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 Regional Reservoir.

"These permit applications are the next step in securing a reliable source of water for the residents of Dawsonville well into the future and providing storage for use by our neighbors," Grogan said.

The city is the first local government entity to align with Georgia Reservoir Co. on the project, according to Scott Cole, an attorney representing the developers.

"Other local governments have looked at the project, but the city of Dawsonville is the first ... willing to file applications with the state," Cole said.

Dawson County Commission Chair Mike Berg confirmed Cole made the presentation to him a couple years ago. Lumpkin and Forsyth county officials have also been contacted.

"At that time, they were looking at pumping water down to Forsyth County," Berg said.

Cole said Monday that Calhoun Creek would be considered a regional reservoir, rather than just a water resource for Forsyth, as was proposed in 2011.

"Essentially, we let the dust settle and continued to talk to local governments," he said. "There is an interest in moving forward."

Brooke Anderson, general manager of Etowah Water and Sewer Authority, said he was surprised by the city's requests.

The authority has been working since 2006 to develop the Russell Creek Reservoir on Etowah River Road, less than 3 miles from the proposed Calhoun Creek site on Hwy. 9.

"The city has been kept apprised of our progress, so yes, we are puzzled," Anderson said.

According to Anderson, the Russell Creek Reservoir is designed to serve a projected population of 125,000 and supply the needs of Dawson County, including the city, past 2050.

"We have had numerous conversations over the years with the city concerning our Russell Creek Reservoir," Anderson said. "The authority ... has acquired all of the land and is currently in the final stages of the permitting process."

Grogan said the city's intention is not to compete with the authority's aim to supply water along the Ga. 400 corridor.

"The proposed reservoir project will supply the long-term water needs of Dawsonville the region," Grogan said. "We're not wanting to compete with what they have been doing at 400."

The idea, Grogan said, is to "get ahead of the game as far as water goes."

"This is a very lengthy process that will take a long time before anything happens," he said. "The city is preparing for the future if water becomes an issue."

The city council met with representatives from Georgia Reservoir Co. during a closed portion of its December meeting.

"We had them come in and do an executive session presentation to get the council aware of what was going on," Grogan said.

Monday afternoon, the mayor made the announcement about the permit applications.

"We didn't bring it out in the very beginning because we didn't know what part or role we, the city, would want to play," he said.

According to Councilman Chris Gaines, a vote was not required for the city to seek the permits. He did, however, say the next step would be to look into grants available for governments to conduct a study on the project.

"Anything going forward, from my point of view, I would want to see detailed business plans ... the impact," Gaines said.

According to Grogan, the proposed reservoir site straddles Dawson and Lumpkin counties on Hwy. 9 and includes between 1,100 and 1,500 "rolling acres in the city of Dawsonville."

"It's a manmade reservoir already, an old rock quarry, that's not conducive to anything else really, and there are no buildings or anything," he said. "The main part was we just wanted to make everyone aware of what's going on."

Grogan cited the continued litigation between Alabama and Florida over the water resources in the Coosa and Chattahoochee River basins as reason to consider the reservoir partnership.

"Water is and will continue to be a precious resource," he said.