Also at the meeting Saturday, the Dawson County Homeowners Association honored Warren King and Arlene McClure with the Mike Brown You Care Award for commitment to the community.
A panel of experts fielded questions on regional water issues, including the controversial Shoal Creek Reservoir proposal, Saturday morning in Dawsonville.
Representatives with U.S. Fish and Wildlife, the Upper Etowah River Alliance and Etowah Water and Sewer Authority were invited to participate in the forum held in conjunction with the Dawson County Homeowners Association annual meeting.
Association member Bob Inman attended the gathering with his wife, Marsha.
“We came basically because of the reservoir issue and were very impressed,” he said. “I thought it was very informative, both sides of the issue were very fairly presented, and we left with fewer questions than we had when we got here.”
In what some view as a solution to the region’s water needs, the local water and sewer authority is working with a national water firm to build a reservoir on 2,000 acres in Dawson Forest Wildlife Management Area.
Reservoir opponents have vowed a legal fight if the plan proceeds because it could disrupt river flows in areas to the south.
They also worry about several fish species found only in the Etowah River that potentially could be wiped out if the reservoir is built.
“If you want to protect your natural heritage in Dawson County, you don’t want to wipe out Shoal Creek,” said Joe Cook with the Upper Etowah Riverkeeper.
“They’re [Etowah darter] found nowhere else. That’s special.”
Brooke Anderson, general manager of the authority, said the existence of endangered fish species does not eliminate the ability to build the reservoir.
“Through collaborations with fish and wildlife and the corps of engineers, you look at ways to mitigate the impact through engineered alternatives,” he said.
“If you’ve done the process right, it is very conceivable that this project will not create jeopardy for the species.”
Robin Goodlow, with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said there is not one answer to the region’s water crisis and reservoirs should be considered as a last resort.
“We must look at existing water sources that would cost far less than a new reservoir,” she said.
Jane Graves, president of the homeowner’s association, was pleased with the forum and the discussion it spurred.
“I certainly learned a lot myself, and I think the audience would probably agree,” she said.
“I think the format was great and I think everybody probably got to say their peace and speak their minds in a very informative ... manner.”