Two agencies competing to build a proposed reservoir in the Dawson Forest Wildlife Management Area made presentations to the Dawson County commission Sept. 8.
Also during the first of two public hearings on the matter, commissioners heard from several residents concerned about the proposal.
Owned by the city of Atlanta, the 10,000-acre tract was originally purchased as a second airport site.
The commission got involved in the discussions after legislation was passed that gives officials a say in building reservoirs in their counties.
"So it's important for us as a board to hear what you have to say," said Commission Chairman Mike Berg.
The second hearing is scheduled for Sept. 22.
In their presentations Sept. 8, Etowah Water and Sewer Authority General Manager Brooke Anderson and Jerry Daws, president of Republic Resources Inc., called the proposed reservoir an economic engine for Dawson County and the region.
The project, they said, could create jobs, spur business and provide needed water resources to the area.
Both concepts also call for about 8,000 acres to be preserved.
The authority's proposal calls for a nearly 1,200-acre reservoir with a projected yield of 90 million gallons a day at a cost of $650 million.
The Republic Resources project would use about 2,200 acres to produce 100 million gallons a day of treated water for the region at $800 million.
Both concepts would be fed by Shoal Creek and the Etowah and Amicalola rivers and include nearly 8,000 acres for conservation. They would also be privately funded.
Initially, the two groups were working together on the project.
"We actually started this reservoir process several years ago, so we were the initial leader on this reservoir project," Daws said.
"When [the authority] decided to go a route with a national company, we didn't agree with that approach. We kind of felt like Dawson County should participate, not another company out of New Jersey."
Daws also said the county would be positioned to receive several million dollars - a one-time $7 million advisory fee, for assisting with the development of the reservoir, as well as estimated annual payments from reservoir operations between $8.3 million and $10.2 million upon full operation of the reservoir.
Anderson said he was surprised by parts of Daws' presentation.
"The numbers in the presentation were very interesting," Anderson said. "Knowing how the project would function and the cost of water, those numbers were a surprise to me, but I'm sure he has justification.
"This is a local project by the local water authority moving it forward. We're looking for local support and our commissioners' support to move the project forward."
Several residents spoke during the public hearings, voicing concerns that ranged from cutting down trees and endangering fish species to the amount of money either entity proposes the reservoir would make.
"I'm concerned about the darters, but more concerned about the people who live here," said Vernon Smith, who has a business on Dawson Forest Road. "What's in it for us? Somebody's going to make money and neither of them are doing it for the love of Dawson County."