Water, Water, Everywhere

Walton and Oconee counties got the go ahead from the Department of Natural Resources last week to begin construction on the dam for the Hard Labor Creek reservoir.

The Hard Labor Creek reservoir project, some 20 years in the making, finally looks set to become a reality. The state issued the permit last week, giving the go ahead to Walton and Oconee counties to build the dam for the reservoir that is expected to supplement water supplies as area resources deplete.

The permit from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, issued under the Georgia Safe Dams Act, clears the way for officials to move ahead with the project.

“That was the final step we were waiting for,” Chairman Kevin Little. Now we can go ahead with the reservoir to back up water reserves for north Georgia.”

Little said $33 million is needed over the next three years to move ahead with the project and the hope is the state will kick in some of the $300 million set aside for reservoir projects.

Even before taking office, Gov. Nathan Deal promised his support for projects designed to secure water resources for the state. Georgia, Alabama and Florida have been embroiled in water wars for years with an uncertain outcome going forward as the states battle it out in the courts. 

The conditions of the permit give until Nov. 1, 2012 for construction to begin on dam for the Hard Labor Creek project and until March 31, 2013 for its completion.

According to the Hard Labor Creek website, Walton and Oconee County agreed to partner in the project when it was realized existing water supply resources would be depleted at projected growth rates. The partnership was solidified when it became apparent it would result in a significant cost saving to both counties if the expense was shared. Land acquisition began in 2007 and is still under way. Design of the reservoir began in 2008 and, according to the construction schedule, should be complete by 2013, in keeping with permit requirements. The filling of the reservoir for Phase 1 is expected to take two to three years. The long-term project is expected to continue for about 40 to 50 years.

The estimated $170 million for the initial design, construction, initial water treatment plant and transmission system of Phase 1 will be split between Walton and Oconee Counties on a 71.2 to 28.8-percent basis with Walton bearing the larger share. Included in those sharing in the water from the Hard Labor Creek project are current and future customers of the Walton County Water and Sewerage Authority, Oconee County Utility Department and regional wholesale customers including the cities of Loganville, Social Circle and Jersey.

According to information on the website, Barrow and Morgan counties as well as the city of Winder have also expressed an interest in future water supplies from the reservoir. Although the primary reason for the project will remain as a water resource, officials have said it would be open for restricted recreational activities. According to Little, the reservoir, which will be the largest body of water in Walton County, is set to go in north east of Social Circle. The reservoir pool will cover more than 1,400 acres with 35 miles of shoreline. At full capacity, it will hold 12 billion gallons of water for a yield of 62 million gallons of peak day water supply.


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