The Etowah Water and Sewer Authority could see the projected timeline for the Russell Creek Reservoir drop by as much as half if it can secure a loan from the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority.
At the request of General Manager Brooke Anderson, the local authority's board approved a resolution stating its intent to move forward with a loan request during a work session March 11.
The resolution is not an acceptance of any sort of finances or obligations, according to Anderson. Rather, it's a statement of intent to pursue the loan process should it be accepted.
"The state put approximately $300 million in a fund toward reservoir development," Anderson said. "Until this year, we really have not pursued this money because we did not feel like our project was ready.
"Our project is now within reaches of getting our permit, so we feel now that this is an appropriate time to move toward getting this money."
The authority has been working since 2006 to develop the Russell Creek Reservoir, which could serve a projected population of 125,000 past 2050, off of Etowah River Road.
According to a population study completed by the Georgia Mountains Regional Commission in 2005, Dawson County could add 100,000 residents by 2050, which would require up to 17.2 million gallons of water per day.
GEFA also offers grants, but Anderson said the requirements likely were not in the local authority's best interests.
"Whatever percentage of grant money the state puts in, that percentage of money, they have ownership and rights to that water to do what they want with," he said. "Russell Creek Reservoir has been conceived and permitted for the purposes of Dawson County and Dawson County only, through the year 2063."
If approved for the loan application, Anderson would enter negotiations with GEFA on the terms. Once those were set, the loan would then go before Gov. Nathan Deal for approval.
"If we are able to secure this money, once we get the 404 permit, we will move into detailed design, which would take approximately 18 months to complete," he said. "Once that phase is completed, we will move into construction. If we get the loan, all of this could be completed and the reservoir be operational within five years."
According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, a 404 permit is needed "for certain activities conducted in wetlands or other U.S. waters." This permit is usually required to move water among water basins.
If the authority does not land a loan, Anderson said, it would have to put the project on the back burners until $25 million was secured, which could lengthen the project time frame to seven to 10 years.
"We believe that, based on past loans that have gone out, that the terms and conditions could ... reduce the impact of this project on our customers, on development and on the community," Anderson said.
"Anything we can do to reduce that is what we are going to try to do."