Public comment closes soon for proposed Paulding reservoir
by Matt Shinall
Jan 19, 2012 | 2528 views | 0 0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Area governments and environmental organizations disagree over the methods a bordering county is seeking to secure water for future need as time runs out for public comment.

Paulding County is in the permitting stage for the proposed Richland Creek Reservoir, a 305-acre impoundment just south of the Bartow County line. The city of Cartersville issued a resolution earlier this month indicating concerns and opposition of the project, which calls for pumping up to 40 million gallons a day from the Etowah River to fill the reservoir.

Paulding, however, maintains the reservoir would have minimal impact on the Etowah.

"The only time we can pull water out of the Etowah River is in higher flow stages," said Paulding County Water System Director Michael Carter. "Low-flow protection from [the Georgia Environmental Protection Division] requires you to have 'x' amount of flow passing our intake. If it's below that flow, I can't pump anything."

The proposed reservoir would yield some 35 MGD to help meet projected demand. Currently purchasing water from the Cobb-Marietta Water Authority, Paulding has been guaranteed up to 23 MGD -- Richland Creek Reservoir would help bridge the gap between supply and demand pertaining to the county's 50-year plan requiring about 60 MGD.

A resolution approved by the Cartersville City Council on Jan. 5 lists many concerns with the project, suggesting a lack of regional studies on the effects to communities in the Etowah River Basin, including provisions for future water supplies and plans to deal with the impact of another severe drought.

"If there is going to be a reservoir, we need to consider all users of the watershed -- not just one county," said Cartersville City Manager Sam Grove.

A letter signed by Mayor Matt Santini accompanying the resolution was sent to the Georgia EPD and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers expressing the local government's position on the proposal.

"It is our belief that the proposed project, as currently submitted, will have a severe, adverse effect on the Etowah Basin and our [community's] potential growth and management of existing water resources," Santini stated in the letter dated Jan. 5. "Based upon the current submission the City of Cartersville feels that said plan should be denied at this time."

Executive Director and Riverkeeper with Rome-based Coosa River Basin Initiative Joe Cook released a statement Tuesday calling for public comments on the matter. As in other cases calling for the construction of new reservoirs, Cook advocates the use of efficiency measures and public education on water conservation.

"Depending on the county's ability to use the water it has more efficiently and the outcome of litigation between Georgia and Alabama over the use of Lake Allatoona, this project could be a colossal waste of local, state and federal tax dollars," Cook said in the release. "Paulding County could do more with its water efficiency program. ... These programs secure new water supplies at a fraction of the cost of building a reservoir."

Cook also highlighted the endangered Cherokee Darter living in the Richland Creek area facing peril in the construction of a reservoir. Other concerns from CRBI and the city of Cartersville center around the prospect of conducting interbasin transfers via a pipeline through southern Bartow.

Carter, however, rebuffs this with Paulding's physical location within two basins, the Etowah and the Chattahoochee, from which they currently receive water.

"Right now, we get water from the Cobb-Marietta Water Authority -- they have a withdrawal on the Chattahoochee River and they have a withdrawal on Lake Allatoona. Paulding County is about two-thirds Etowah Basin, one-third Chattahoochee Basin. We get water from both those plants, so as far as the interbasin transfer goes -- it's as much a wash as anything," Carter said. "We'll still be buying water from Cobb-Marietta Water Authority, [the reservoir] does not take away the need to still purchase water from Cobb-Marietta."

If permitting and other schedules go as planned, construction could begin as early as 2014 or 2015. Giving time for the reservoir to fill, it could be in use by 2016 or 2017. Long-range waste water treatment plans also take growth into account with proposals to expand Paulding's Pumpkinvine Creek plant from a current 1.5 MGD to 17 MGD by 2025, returning this water into the Etowah through Pumpkinvine.

Those wishing to comment on the project can direct letters to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Savannah District, Piedmont Branch, Kathrine M. Freas, 1590 Adamson Parkway, Suite 200, Morrow, GA 30260-1777. Letters must be postmarked by Saturday, Jan. 21. Letter should refer to the applicant as Paulding County Board of Commissioners, application number: SAS-2007-01410.