Bear Creek dam site to move up­stream

The Covington News - - FRONT PAGE - ROB DEWIG rdewig@cov­news.com

Bear with some small changes to the Bear Creek Reser­voir’s lo­ca­tion, be­cause it’ll mean the roads around it won’t have to close dur­ing its con­struc­tion.

The New­ton County Board of Com­mis­sion­ers voted Tues­day to push the lo­ca­tion of the planned reser­voir’s dam up­stream 600 feet — which doesn’t sound like much un­til one con­sid­ers that the orig­i­nal dam would’ve been lo­cated down­stream of Hen­der­son Mill Road.

Built in its orig­i­nal lo­ca­tion, it would have required the de­struc­tion and re­lo­ca­tion of the road, county at­tor­ney W. Thomas Craig told the com­mis­sion­ers.

Worse, it would have meant re­lo­cat­ing the road to the top of the dam.

The county re­cently asked Schn­abel En­gi­neer­ing to study the dam. En­gi­neer Joe Mon­roe said his com­pany rec­om­mended mov­ing the dam 600 feet up­stream, which would leave the road alone, pre­serve 4,525 lin­ear feet of rocky creek, and leave un­touched 3.7 acres of valu­able nat­u­ral wet­land.

Thing is, mov­ing the dam doesn’t af­fect the acreage of the lake. The orig­i­nal plan called for a reser­voir for drink­ing wa­ter 1,242 acres in size, Craig said, but it was de­signed us­ing old global po­si­tion­ing tech­nol­ogy. A re­view of the orig­i­nal plan us­ing new GPS sys­tems showed the orig­i­nal plan would flood 1,304 acres. Mov­ing the dam re­stores it to 1,244 acres, or al­most equal to the orig­i­nal plan.

Landown­ers along the reser­voir’s future shores will see no change in where the waves will some­day be, Craig said; their lake­front homes, when built, will still be lake­front.

Best of all, the pro­posed change in the dam’s lo­ca­tion will save at least $2.5 mil­lion, Craig said, call­ing that a “con­ser­va­tive es­ti­mate.” Con­struc­tion sav­ings will be at least $1.34 mil­lion. En­gi­neer­ing for a dam with a smaller crest and no road atop it will save $1.13 mil­lion.

The com­pany that orig­i­nally planned the dam is no longer in busi­ness, Craig said.

The change in lo­ca­tion will im­pact only one landowner — the Gaithers United Methodist Church. Craig said church lead­ers have ex­pressed sup­port of the dam’s move.

The reser­voir is not fully per­mit­ted, how­ever. The county will sub­mit its plan for the dam’s re­lo­ca­tion to the U.S. Corps of En­gi­neers in Au­gust, Craig said. The Corps has promised to no­tify all prop­erty own­ers along the banks of the reser­voir of the changes (50 of the 183 af­fected prop­er­ties are owned by the county), and al­low 15 days for peo­ple to make com­ments in writ­ing. No public hear­ing is planned.

When­ever con­struc­tion starts, Craig and county wa­ter re­sources direc­tor Ja­son Nord have both said pre­vi­ously it will take 10 years be­fore wa­ter be­gins to be pro­duced; the dam must be built, fol­lowed by the wa­ter treat­ment plant and pip­ing in­fra­struc­ture. Nord said the reser­voir could prob­a­bly pro­duce wa­ter in seven years if the project was rushed.

Other costs

A $21 mil­lion state loan will cover about two-thirds of the con­struc­tion cost of the ac­tual reser­voir and dam, which is ex­pected to con­ser­va­tively cost a to­tal of $32.5 mil­lion, Craig has said, not­ing it could be sig­nif­i­cantly lower. The loan was awarded by the Gover­nor’s Wa­ter Sup­ply Pro­gram; the ac­tual money comes from the Ge­or­gia En­vi­ron­men­tal Fi­nance Au­thor­ity and Ge­or­gia Depart­ment of Com­mu­nity Af­fairs.

The 40-year loan calls for 0 per­cent in­ter­est for the first three years of con­struc­tion and 1 per­cent in­ter­est for any con­struc­tion time af­ter that. For the re­main­der of the 40 years, the in­ter­est rate will be 1.82 per­cent, with the first seven years con­sist­ing of in­ter­est-only pay­ments and the re­main­ing years of prin­ci­pal and in­ter­est pay­ments. There are also no loan clos­ing fees.

As­sum­ing that con­struc­tion only takes 36 months, then for the first seven years at a 1.82 per­cent in­ter­est rate, the county would have to pay $382,200 per year. For years eight and on, the county would have to $852,083 per year.

Craig has said the project will cost some­where around $64 mil­lion, maybe less.

The need

New­ton County has two wa­ter-drink­ing reser­voirs. The pri­mary reser­voir is Lake Varner; the ac­tual wa­ter treat­ment plant for Lake Varner is called the Cor­nish Creek plant. City Pond is a much older and smaller reser­voir; the wa­ter treat­ment plant for City Pond is called the Wil­liams Street plant. Both reser­voirs can be sup­plied with wa­ter pumped out of the Al­covy River.

The Cor­nish Creek plant can pro­duce 25 mil­lion gal­lons per day (MGD). The Wil­liams Street plant can treat a max­i­mum of 4 MGD.

County of­fi­cials say the wa­ter held in the Bear Creek Reser­voir will be en­tirely New­ton County’s. Wal­ton County owns 25 per­cent of the wa­ter in Lake Varner.

Bax­ter Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals is ex­pected to use a mil­lion gal­lons of wa­ter per day when it’s up and run­ning.

Dar­rell Everidge/The Cov­ing­ton News

A de­ci­sion by the New­ton County Board of Com­mis­sion­ers to push the dam for the pro­posed Bear Creek Reser­voir 600 feet up­stream will pre­serve this view from Hen­der­son Mill Road – and keep the road it­self from having to be closed and moved.

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